How did you end up back in the computer world?
I had a series of jobs in both finance and in the software business. A friend of mine had started a software company in the San Fernando Valley called Essential Software. That job was seminal for me because I had hands-on experience across a variety of functions: managing programmers, at one point I was the CFO and at one point I became product manager. I had marketing, operations and finance experience within that small growing company.
How did Geocities get its start?
Along the way, I was fascinated by the PC and online services. Shortly after the PC was introduced, modems came out and with modems you could then connect PCs to the rest of the world, pre-Internet. I had to be part of it, and I really wanted to be involved from the beginning. I knew from all my experience that people wanted to connect to other people. They had something to say about themselves or what their interests were. That was how Geocities got started.
What was the idea behind it?
The idea was to create communities of interest where people could set up their own free websites, talk about what was interesting to them and meet other people.
Sounds a lot like a social network.
It was a social network, and it was pre-Facebook and pre-Myspace. But it was post-online service, postlistservs. So there’s a whole continuum of user-generated content and social networks, and Geocities was part of that continuing evolution of the social networking phenomenon.
Why isn’t Geocities now a giant like Facebook?
The history of transformative innovations like the Internet and television and radio is about continuing the investment to keep up with the advances in the technology. As the innovation evolves, the applications within the innovation, like Geocities, either evolve or they die. There’s this opportunity for people to come in with fresh ideas and topple giants, so to speak, and that’s pretty common. Geocities fell to the rapid pace of innovation on the Internet.
It’s a cycle.
Before Facebook there was Myspace, which was huge, and before there was Myspace there was Friendster, which was huge. The potential was there (for Geocities), but it’s a fairly common scenario that startups come in and seize the day.
How did you feel when Geocities was shut down a few years ago?
It had its time. I feel like we had a place in the evolution of social networking and I’m pleased that we were a big part of it. And as there wasn’t investment in keeping it going, it was time to move on.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.