One of the very first web sites I ever created is closing very soon. ArcoJedi's Messy Stuff Central is being forcefully shut down in a manner of speaking. I got an email at the end of September that AOL was shutting down it's 'hometown service' for good.
We're sorry to inform you that on Oct. 31, 2008, AOL® Hometown will be shut down permanently. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
I became aware of this service for the first time way back when I first used the internet post-college at home on a black-and-white-screen Macintosh II.
Do you remember those? Well, I really got into the internet beyond just email when I got home from college. Dad got me an AOL account because they were next-to-free through his work. This would have been about 1997 or so. I was working on a group project with the Dark Sun Mailing List, but lamented that I didn't really have a place to host the files. Someone suggested that I use the hosting that AOL included. I looked into it and found out that AOL subscribers (which technically included me) had 10mb of free space online at - members.aol.com/USERNAME - and I took advantage of it. What it amounted to at the completion of the project was about two dozen wordpad files (.rtf), most of which I'd written myself. They were uploaded to a folder and the server built a directory listing which I linked to for the mailing list.
Fast forward about two or three years. I'm married, a father of one and a member of a small-town garage band called Rod & the Satalites. When we lived in Quincy, Illinois at this time we didn't really have much when it came to a computer and I didn't have time for it anyhow. However, when we moved back to St. Louis, my first hobby project was to build a long overdue web site for the band. I posted pictures of the band members, short three-line bios, a few upcoming show dates and contact information. I created this all on my mom's computer using Windows 95 Microsoft Paint and Netscape Composer 4.5! Yeah, good times.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to visit back at Quincy as often as I'd hoped and I eventually stopped contact with the band members. The older free-form Dark Sun Mailing List got replaced with a more official corporate one and it wasn't much fun. They had also halted Dark Sun as a product line. My site sat dormant with few updates until probably 2003 or so. That's when I became a member of MonsterCommerce and really started learning about websites.
I wanted to create something new and was going to just use the AOL space, but it turned out to be a little difficult to manipulate without being signed into AOL at the same time so I found an alternative in the space my cable provider and earthlink made available and started work from there. Eventually those other sites became the family sites you see today with domain names and everything. But I never forgot those older projects.
So, get yourself caught up to the present day. In case you haven't noticed AOL is way down on the list of successful internet companies and is completely repurposing themselves into an entirely different animal; a content and portal provider instead of an ISP. At least, I'm surmising that is their plan. I'm not really following it all that closely. Since the hometown/journal operations don't really benefit anyone at AOL, they did the smart move and retired them. I'm honestly surprised it took them this long. At least I got wind of their warnings and saved those files. AOL also had a blog tool at one time that I tested out and they made it easy to import these blogs into Blogger.
So, my Dark Sun Net Project and Rod & the Satalites pages will have to find a new home in some archive folder somewhere. I have all of the files saved to my local computer and will probably post them somewhere, just for the sake of history. The AOL Journal has been imported properly too, just in case I ever wanted it (which, at the moment, I don't).
My AOL email address still works for those old college friends that still have it, though I check it infrequently. There's some life lesson here about impermanence and growth through destruction, ... or something. Anyhow, that's how it happened.