AOL Hometown

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AOL Hometown was a web hosting service offered by AOL. It offered 12 megabytes of server space for AOL subscribers to publish their own websites, and included a 10-step form-driven page creator called 1-2-3 Publish[1][2] and a WYSIWYG online website builder called Easy Designer,[3] neither of which required knowledge of HTML (AOLpress had been AOL's website builder before the introduction of AOL Hometown). In 2001, AOL Hometown estimatedly had 11 million websites[4] and a new website was added to it every eight seconds.[5] By 2002, AOL Hometown had grown to 14 million websites.[6] It was shut down on 31 October 2008.

Its shutdown led to the creation of The Archive Team by one angered Jason Scott Sadofsky[7][8][9] (commonly known as Jason Scott) which, with the help of the Internet Archive and other activist websites, saved as much of GeoCities as possible when it became the next "critical part of online history"[7] and "important outlet for personal expression on the Web"[10] to be shut down with short notice in October 2009.

History[edit]

Start date[edit]

The site initially launched as "Hometown AOL" in October, 1998. Within the first year, in 1999, the site was redesigned and rebranded as "AOL Hometown" to align the name with the rest of the AOL properties' names (AOL + property name).

Official online information as to when AOL Hometown started out are scarce. whois.pho.to gives a register date of "before Aug-1996" for the domain of hometown.aol.co.uk, however that probably relates rather to the basic AOL domain itself since the "domain name" to the registration is given as "aol.co.uk".[11] First mention of AOL Hometown in a Google Scholar publication dates from 2000, which is Quick Guide to You'Ve Got Pictures, Aol Exclusive Version by D. Peal.[12] Prior to that, AOL Hometown was mentioned in a Deseret News article on September 30, 1999.[13]

Two tools for AOL Hometown on the internet suggest a start date of 1999 or before. The copyright notice to the AOL Hometown StatCounter reads "Copyright 1999-2011".[14] The imprint to the download page of James S. Huggins's AOL Hometown easyDesigner says that it was "created: before Thu, 01.Nov.2001", and its copyright notice reads "© 1997-2011"[15]

Legacy sites[edit]

Over the time of its existence, AOL Hometown incorporated websites of formerly independent services acquired by or merged with AOL,[7] including, but not limited to Ancestry.com,[13] MyFamily.com, Netscape,[13] CompuServe,[16] eAccess[17][18] AcmeCity[19] and others.

Thus, it contained an unknown number of websites that had been online for longer than the existence of AOL Hometown itself. On the German forum antispam.de, one poster complained in 2008 that with the shutdown of AOL Hometown, AOL had deleted his website that had remained on the internet "for more than 17 years" (since at least 1991).[20]

Criticisms of shutdown[edit]

"Well it looks like AOL did it again. Another sneaky move. The Hometown pages all seem to have disappeared. [...] I only discovered this morning that AOL pulled the plug on Oct 31st, 2008." - taimantis.com, November 11th, 2008[21]

"Lots of information on AOL Hometown very important to people who put hard work into these efforts is being lost, possibly without notice." - David Dillard, "Meet the Googles" Visits the Grave Site of AOL Hometown to Ponder Its Past All to Short Life[22]

"I was surprised to find that AOL just shut down their homepage service on Oct. 31st. There were many great websites created through that service that simply no longer exist." - Dr. Jitters, November 12, 2008[23]

"I knew this was coming, I just didn't know the day. I tried, with the help of some great people, to get AOL to donate ficlets to a non-profit, with no luck. I asked them just to give it to me outright since I invented it and built it with the help of some spectacular developers and designers. All of this has gone nowhere. [...] I'm disappointed that AOL's turned its back on the community, although I guess I shouldn't be surprised." - Kevin Lawver, Ficlets Est Mort[24]

"A terrible thing happened recently. You might have missed it. AOL Hometown, which itself was actually a combination of a bunch of previously acquired websites, shut down.
[...] It's all fine and good, those readers who sneer and say 'you get what you pay for' and 'ha ha, losers'. But the fact is, these people were brought online and given a place for themselves. Like a turkey drawn with a child's hand or a collection of snow globes collected from a life well-lived, these sites were hand-made, done by real people, with no agenda or business plan or knowledge, exactly, of how everything under the webservers worked. They were paying for their accounts, make no mistake – this was often provided to them as a tool combined with their AOL accounts. Some were absorbed from other companies as AOL purchased them. Some of these websites had existed for a decade. [...]
We're talking about terabytes, terabytes of data, of hundreds of thousands of man-hours of work, crafted by people, an anthropological bonanza and a critical part of online history, wiped out because someone had to show that they were cutting costs this quarter."
- Jason Scott, Eviction, or the Coming Datapocalypse[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hogan, Lynn (1995). Creating a Web Page Using AOL Hometown, Appendix C to the online book Practical Computing, published on Pearson Education
  2. ^ Internet Baby Steps - Lesson 19: Creating a Simple AOL Home Page, Alexander Magazine, 2001
  3. ^ Willett, Edward (2000). Your Official America Online Guide to Creating Cool Web Pages, 2nd Edition
  4. ^ Schau, Hope Jensen; Gilly, Mary C. (2003). We are what we post? Self-presentation in personal web space, Journal of Consumer Research, December 1, 2003
  5. ^ Musgrove, Mike (2001). Free, easy site-hosting services tap into the urge to post, The Washington Post, January 28, 2001
  6. ^ Hu, Jim (2002). AOL home page glitches irk users, CNET News, February 1, 2002
  7. ^ a b c d Scott, Jason (2008). Eviction, or the Coming Datapocalypse, December 21st, 2008
  8. ^ Scott, Jason (2009). Datapocalypso!, January 5th, 2009
  9. ^ Scott, Jason (2009). STAND BACK, WE’RE ARCHIVISTS, January 9th, 2009
  10. ^ Internet Archive (2009).GeoCities Special Collection 2009: Saving a Historical Record of GeoCities
  11. ^ http://whois.pho.to/hometown.aol.co.uk[dead link]
  12. ^ Google Scholar search result for "AOL Hometown"
  13. ^ a b c Nii, Jenifer K. (1999). Family history Web site joins AOL, Deseret News, September 30, 1999
  14. ^ StatCounter provides free customisable hit counters, visitor tracking and website stats for AOL Hometown[dead link]
  15. ^ Huggins, James S. (1997?). Using AOL Hometown easyDesigner
  16. ^ "AOL-CompuServe deal cleared". CNET. 1997-11-10. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  17. ^ AOL Japan to transfer Net business to eAccess, The Japan Times, May 18, 2004,
  18. ^ Matsuoka, Ken (2008). AOL Announcement: "AOL Hometown/FTP is closing 31st October 2008", 5 December 2008
  19. ^ AcmeCity and AOL Hometown Collaboration, 2001
  20. ^ "Immerhin hat AOL im Gegensatz zu manchen anderen Providern oder Gratisangeboten immerhin eine 'Haltbarkeit' von über 17 Jahren gehabt." ("Different from what other providers or free services would have given me, AOL gave my site a 'durability' of more than 17 years.") Chactory, thread Google warnt vor der gesamten AOL-Domain ("Google advises against all AOL domains"), 2 October 2008
  21. ^ "How to retrieve your AOL files". Taimantis.com. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  22. ^ Dillard, David (2008). "Meet the Googles" Visits the Grave Site of AOL Hometown to Ponder Its Past All to Short Life, Temple University, posted on Yahoo Groups, 18 November 2008
  23. ^ AOL hometown shut down. Finding old sites., House of Jitters, November 12, 2008
  24. ^ Lawver, Kevin (2008). Ficlets Est Mort

External links[edit]