Thursday, October 23, 2008

AOL Hometown shutting down, and taking a bit of bronze with it

Well, with the announcement that AOL's Hometown service is shutting down by October 31, one of the truly old school web hosting sites from the early days of the Web, up there with GeoCities and Tripod, and all of the websites hosted at URLs "hometown.aol.com", "members.aol.com" and "users.aol.com", will be going the way of Xoom into the land of dead bits.

The shutdown is pretty abrupt; the formal announcement was only posted on September 30, and according to it, if webmasters don't back up their website files by the 31st, they'll simply be gone. All Hometown pages have one of two prominently placed banners atop the pages announcing the shutdown, one of which says "AOL Hometown is Closing its Doors. Find out how to BACK UP AND SAVE YOUR FILES before we say goodbye for good." and the other stating that "A Blogger is Always Prepared. DON'T GET LEFT BEHIND. Learn how to BACK UP & SAVE YOUR INFORMATION now." (despite the service predating the takeoff of the blog format by several years). And of course, many websites originally at Hometown have long since moved to other hosts and URLs. But when one considers that many vintage websites haven't been maintained in years, the banners' warning will often go unnoticed.

In particular, Hometown was a popular hosting service in the late 1990s for the early wave of fansites devoted to pulp hero Doc Savage. The two most prominent of these were Chris Kalb's The 86th Floor (for the uninitiated, that's a reference to Doc's headquarters being situated on that floor of the Empire State Building) and the long-gone (outside of the Wayback Machine) Jeff Sines's Doc Savage Unchained; other Doc Savage sites that are still up on Hometown include Jim Gould's Doc Savage Collection, the Doc Savage Convention Center, the Doc Savage Game Center, the Doc Savage 75th Anniversary page, the fanfic "The Steel Hammer", and the Wold Newton Chronicles. It makes me feel old (at least in Internet years) that I first saw these sites all the way back in high school, around 1999-2000 (I first got into Doc Savage when a high school classmate lent me some of his old Bantam Doc paperbacks).

Highlights of The 86th Floor include circa-1999 rumors of an upcoming Doc Savage movie starring a pre-Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger as the title character, a clever way of choosing either a 1930s or 1960s "look" for the webpages using a background image that reflected the appropriate decade's depiction of Doc, and a quote that captures the excitement of the first wave of Web technologies: "In the 1930s, Doc Savage was a state-of-the-art adventurer. Today's net-savvy fans would have to agree; They can download wav sound files, rare images ... and now Acrobat files!" Chris Kalb also used Hometown to host a personal page and a network of pages devoted to the "hero" pulp genre: a general introduction to the genre, and sites devoted to particular series, including G-8 and His Battle Aces, Operator #5, and The Spider (supplanted by a newer version that escaped from Hometown).

The Doc Savage Unchained site, meanwhile, was notable for being the first Doc fansite with a complete cover gallery (of both the pulp magazines and paperback versions), and for being the home of the Doc Savage webring (a common way of linking similar-minded sites in those days). Also, the links page includes several more early Hometown sites.

I've concentrated on the Doc Savage pages as the ones I'm most familiar with, but I'm sure there are a lot of great AOL Hometown pages that I don't know about; if you know of any, leave a comment or an email!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those fools who paid $10 per month to keep that AOL Space, although I use Verizon as my ISP. I resent on getting some kind of notice from AOL that Hometown would be shut down.

Now years of work is GONE.

Has anyone heard of any Class Action Law suits started claiming the value of that work and particularly for those of us who paid for the service?

Anonymous said...

Dude,

You had a month. Years of work, and you didn't see the warnings on ANY of the pages that it was going away?

Read up a little, next time.

To get to the data, you need to use an FTP client and do the following:

URL = ftp.hometown.aol.com

default directory = "your AOL screen name"

log in = "your AOL screen name"

password = "your AOL password"

Should work, if you do it soon. If it's already gone, then it's gone for good.

Anonymous said...

You can still probably retrieve your old AOL website at:

http://www.archive.org/index.php

I used it to get mine.

Miss E said...

To whomever posted http://www.archive.org/index.php:

Thank you thank you thank you!

My dad had an aol hometown page. He passed away this year, only 52 years old, and very suddenly. I liked checking in on his old site now and again. It was a comfort. Obviously, I was devastated to find it was gone forever, but thanks to this link, not so!