Monthly Archives: April 2011

This new torrent of Geocities unifies the original release plus the patches. Thanks again to the Archive Team for releasing both!

With this combined torrent, it is possible to seed the data forever, without having to keep two copies of everything. And I kindly ask everybody to do so!

Download @ Piratebay

UPDATE 2011-05-02: If you had problems with the torrent before, please go and check the link again. I fixed the torrent after some reports of it not being compatible with many clients.

The Archive Team released a patch to the Geocities Torrent, fixing the last 0.05% of the download that never seemed to arrive and some broken archives that couldn’t be decrunched before. Hurray!!

It is already the second day the computer is working hard applying this patch, using scripts published here before. To use this patch we had to stop seeding the torrent, because the patch is consistent which the data the torrent is spreading. Going online again would mean to erase the patch. So, after applying the patch is completed, we will publish a new torrent containing the patches (if the Archive Team itself will not do it themselves in the meantime).

The five copyright line examples above where collected from ten random Geocities home pages. The encircled C is indeed very common in an environment where most people probably wouldn’t expect it. Indeed it seems weird that pages completely consisting of image elements copied from somewhere else would bare such a notice.

The comment data inside of image files frequently contains copyright lines as well – even with the most simple examples:

Copyright..1996 all rights reserved David Green Created using Gif Construction Set 32 “Registered Ver” “hands off”

Copyright 1996, by ArcaMax, Inc.; All rights reserved.

Background Copyright (c)JPayne 1996 All Rights Reserverd Must be purchased to be put on Non Profit Sites

From today’s perspective, these copyright lines give a hopeless appearance. There is for example a version of kilroybar.gif that dates back to 1995, it is not animated and bears no copyright notice though. So apparently David Green, claiming “all rights reserved”, mainly added an animation in 1996 to an existing static image. Apart from this, the figure Kilroy was already part of US folklore since the 1940’s, making it hard to claim copyright for it.

The buzzing line animation heartbt.gif, of which “ArcaMax, Inc.” claims to own all rights, hardly looks like something that is copyright-able at all. Apart from the act of creating the actual file, there is no trace of any kind of original work. Granted, ArcaMax, whoever that might have been, also created some more interesting animations like rotating globes and waving US flags – but also the complete alphabet rendered in the popular Times New Roman font, which is just a conversion, not a creative act.

The last example, backjpmidnitesatin.jpg, even contains a puzzling commercial offer: The image has to be licensed for use on non-profit websites. Which means that if a website generates profit, no license purchase is required, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. How to purchase a license from “JPayne” is not clear.

Luckily, I was able to contact “Moss Brook Arts”1, the creator of the legendary dove animation. In 1996 he not only put a “copywrite” notice inside the GIF file, but also asked for a fee of 5$ for its usage on other web sites. He agreed to answer some of my questions.

According to himself, he used the term “copywrite” instead of “copyright” simply out of naivety. He never made any money from the animation. Probably nobody ever looked into the file to see the request for money. And, the animation is actually an appropriation of another GIF he found somewhere online: It was terribly animated and looked clumsy, but he saw the potential and spent many days to fix it into the perfect version that became an early web superhit. Moss Brooks writes in a personal email: “I finally had done enough work on the dove to feel qualified to take credit […].” (The same probably applied to GIF hero Chuck Poynter, who appropriated animations from 1980’s software and spread it with his name inside the files.)

This proved my intuition that the copyright notices on Geocities are not to be taken literally as copyright notices. They are instead a from of digital signature from a person that spent time bringing something to the web and feeling proud about it. A © is simply a bit stronger than “made by”. – Maybe this process can be compared to construction workers scratching their initials into still-soft concrete, or leaving a hand print in fresh cement.

The creators of early GIFs and web pages might not have been totally original in the sense of creating something that didn’t exist before in any form. – In many cases they actually did something much greater: making something usable for millions of people that would come after them. Of what relevance would the dancing girl be if Chuck Poynter would have left it to rot on some old diskette? Thanks to him, the animation became a cultural icon. Thanks to Moss Brook Arts, we will forever have a perfect dove. And David Green deserves credit for animating Kilroy as well.

  1. The artist asked for his real name not to be mentioned. He retreated from the web almost completely. []

Yesterday we gave a talk about Digitak Folklore and our Geocities research in front of the highly competent audience at the New Museum in NY.  A gentlemen approached us after to introduce his thoughts on c.gif, the tiny transparent graphic that is still online and on the same place as it’s always been, at

He thought that it wasn’t just forgotten there, but left there on purpose, because all the Yahoo empire would collapse without it. Probably it is still used in the layouts of the company’s pages; deleting it would be like pulling out the critical block in the Jenga Tower. Good point! I can imagine it even more dramatic. If Yahoo deletes the c.gif the quake could be experienced all around the WWW. Who knows how many layouts outside of Geocities were and are built using it?

Felix the Cat, besides his well-known cartoon career, enjoyed a second birth on the amateur web as an animated GIF:

The origins of this animation are at the moment unknown to us. From the many instances it was used on Geocities, the oldest found until now dates back to February 13th 1997 and was created with version 0.2 of GifBuilder by Yves Piguet from Lausanne.

While it is true that some times the animation was placed on web pages purely because of its entertaining nature, void of any context, in most cases Felix’ appearance added meaning and served as a clever illustration. Some examples:

1. Under Construction

By combining Felix with an Under Construction message, the web page’s author shows understanding for surfers’ frustrations caused by an incomplete page. (In this example, a class yearbook was still missing some photos.)

Original URL:

2. Looking Forward

Felix appeared in announcements of future events. Holidays like Halloween were especially popular. Here is an example of a Christmas that will never come:

Original URL:

3. Webmaster’s Impatience

Not only surfers had to wait during the early times of the web — for pages to be updated and images to be downloaded. Webmasters, the creators of web pages, had to deal with their own kind of delays. For example, not receiving enough communication for their publishing efforts.

Original URL:

4. Relief

Felix can be found on many pages with relaxing images, poetry, music and  jokes. Indeed he appears a little stressed out and could use a laugh or two.

Original URL:

5. Avatar

Some webmasters felt that Felix was a good representation for themselves. In this example, the animation also helps to ease the gravity of a man’s confessions about his mental illness.

Original URL:

6. Deep Thought

Online riddles and assignments have been known to feature Felix. The illustration suggests that you should deeply think about the questions. In the following example, the file is even called think.gif:

Original URL:

7. Cat Representative

Yes, and some times Felix was used because he is a cat.

Original URL:

Original URL:

On the 30th of March 2011, Jason Scott, the man behind the archive and Archiveteam, the group that brought Geocities back to life, has published a transcript of his talk at the Personal Digital Archiving conference.

It is a very tense text, almost a manifesto. Some quotes:

On the current attitude to data loss:

In fact, if you step back and look at it, the loss of data has moved to epidemic proportions. I use the term epidemic specifically here; I mean that there is a mental condition to accept the loss of data as the price of doing business with computers. And beyond that, the expectation that data will be lost, and the spreading of this idea to the point that data loss becomes no big thing.


The current natural order of things for hosting user-generated content
is this: Disenfranchise. Demean. Delete.

On the uniqueness and significance of Geocities users’ experience:

But I think what they lost was that Geocities arrived in roughly 1995,
and was, for hundreds of thousands of people, their first experience
with the idea of a webpage, of a full-color, completely controlled
presentation on anything they wanted. For some people, their potential
audience was greater for them than for anyone in the entire history of
their genetic line. It was, to these people, breathtaking.

How services should deal with User Content:

This is about understanding that user data is a trust, a heritage, history.






Original URL:
(Cleaned HTML)

Original URL:

John, aka “VRMAN”, used to study Multimedia at Teesside University in Middlesbrough. He was fascinated by Virtual Reality and created this representation of himself:

A graphical extravaganza, especially for 1997! While elements of amateur design – background patterns, centered text and images and the default hr divider – dominate the page, there is a sense of composition and elegance present, especially in  the navigation cubes.

Original URL: