This GeoCities Advent Calendar Is a Christmas Miracle

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Yes, friends, it’s that magical time of year. When families around the world test their patience with travel lines, gifting politics, and most unnecessarily of all: advent calendars. That cardboard box no bigger than a package of graph paper stuffed with chocolate, candy and little toys. But this is 2016! Technology should have done away with these frivolties by now with a sleeker, modern version of the tradition. And someone finally sort of finally has with an advent calendar made from the millennial’s Norman Rockwell: GeoCities.

Titled the ‘Old Web Advent Calendar,’ the webpage features 24 doors counting down to the big day. Behind each is another page from that early web goodness. Those unforgettable MIDI songs. Those precious, teeny tiny animated gifs. Behind the second day’s door is a wall of intrusive pop up windows, heralding from a time when that stuff wasn’t sponsored by Audi.

The page was created by Nick Betzlbacher, who noticed a lot of door graphics while digging through archived GeoCities pages. These doors were typically used for an “entry page” that bedroom programmers thought would be charming in the years of dial-up internet.

“It would be a shame if nobody would ever see those beautiful doors anymore,” wrote Betzlbacher. “So I came up with the advent calendar. Enjoy! And Merry Christmas.”

Founded in 1994 by Beverly Hills Internet, GeoCities was a service that allowed amatuer website designers to create basic pages, typically webrings of fansites, blogs, and pet shrines littered with cartoon gifs. Essentially a barebones, proto-Tumblr, GeoCities was acquired by Yahoo in 1998 and left to rot over the course of the millennium as the nature of the web, and its user base, dramatically changed. In 2009, Yahoo announced they would be shuttering GeoCities, tearing down the user web’s humble beginnings.

Before GeoCities vanished, a group called Archive Team decided to back up a terabyte of these sites for future generations to explore. Olia Lialina, an artist and one of Betzlbacher’s professors, curated her own selection of this archive with Dragan Espenschied, calling it One Terabyte of Kilobyte. They torrented the terabyte of files from Archive Team in 2011. Because there were so few seeders it took over three months to complete.

So gather round, ye children of the information age, and bask in the warm glow of these slowly bouncing, compression damaged cartoon gifs. Don’t bullshit yourself pretending you grew up in a snow covered log cabin with those Thomas Kinkade cards. This is what holiday sentimentalism looks like to you.

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