Thousands of private individuals host their genealogy sites on the free GeoCities service. Some of the sites have been there for years with little or no updates from the owners. Now parent company Yahoo is ending the free service.
Yahoo has posted the following notice at http://www.geocities.com:
Current GeoCities customers:
After careful consideration, we have decided to close GeoCities later this year. We'll share more details this summer. For now, please sign in or visit the help center for more information.
Yahoo is encouraging these customers to upgrade to Yahoo's paid Web Hosting service.
If you own a site hosted on GeoCities, I would suggest copying your data to your local hard drive immediately. Then you can look for a new service.
Copying an entire web site to your local hard drive is rather easy to do. I wrote about that several years ago for Windows users at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2005/12/copy_an_entire_.html and for Macintosh users at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2007/09/copy-an-entire-.html. Both products have been updated since those articles were written but the process remains the same.
You do not need to know any user names or passwords to copy publicly-available web sites. In fact, you can even copy web sites that you do not own. However, you will not be able to copy password-protected pages or any information that is stored in databases and is displayed only in dynamic web pages. I suspect there aren't many such pages hosted at GeoCities so that appears to be a non-issue.
Of course, you will want to find a new home for your web pages and, indeed, there are many choices. There are plenty of other Website hosting services out there, including blog platforms such as Wordpress, Blogger, and Typepad, as well as Website creation and hosting services such as Ning, Webs, Jimdo, Snapages, Weebly, and countless more.
I would suggest that you avoid the free web hosting services as (1.) they plaster your pages with advertising and (2.) you never know if they will still be in business next month. GeoCities is going belly up, how do you know that some other free hosting service won't do the same? In these tough economic times, I suspect that a number of free web hosting services with questionable business plans will fold in the next few months.
If you really want to take a chance on a free hosting service, you can find lists of such services available at http://www.free-webhosts.com, http://www.thefreesite.com/Free_Web_Space, and http://www.100best-free-web-space.com.
For less than the price of one Starbucks latte a month, you can find a number of reputable hosting companies available. Of course, there's no guarantee that any of them will be in business next month either. However, I suspect the odds are better with a paid service than with a free service. In addition, the paid services do not clutter your pages with advertising and they also offer more features, such as PHP capabilities, the ability to password-protect web pages, sub-domains, and more.
1&1 is a well-known low-costing hosting service with plans starting at $3.99 a month, including 10 gigabytes of disk space and 600 e-mail accounts. You can find the company at http://www.1and1.com. Of course, 1&1 isn't the only low-cost hosting service, only one of the better-known ones. You can find others at http://b2evolution.net/web-hosting/budget-web-hosting-low-cost-lamp.php, http://www.hostsearch.com/low_cost_web_hosting.asp and elsewhere.
Since you are being forced to switch hosting services anyway, you might want to take advantage of one of the powerful web-based products, such as The Next Generation or PhpGedView. You can find low-cost hosting services who will install the required software for you. All you need to do is add your data.
For The Next Generation, look for the web hosting services listed near the bottom of the page at http://lythgoes.net/genealogy/software.php. Prices start at $4.99/month (or less if you pay annually).
For PhpGedView hosting, take a look at http://www.pgvhosting.com ("pgvhosting" apparently stands for "PhpGedView Hosting.") Prices start at $5.95/month.
You can also choose from any number of free and for-pay blog hosting services, if you wish to switch to a blog format. In short, you have many options.
Copying pages from GeoCities and then uploading them elsewhere can be very inconvenient but does not need to be a disaster. You can host your web pages most anywhere. The one thing you need to do is to avoid procrastinating. Yahoo hasn't announced the date that GeoCities will go away, only that it will be sometime during 2009. It could happen tomorrow!
As always, keep a backup copy of your web site on your local hard drive!