For those who don’t know, webrings were the online community of websites. The word “ring” in the term comes from the fact that members are often linked together like links on a chain. Webrings became popular in the 1990s and early 2000s due to their ease of use for website owners. Unfortunately, they became outdated around 2007 when social media sites began taking over as methods for connecting with people online.
Back then, it was hard to find good content online. Websites were difficult to build, so there weren’t as many options as today. Plus, search engines were slow and often didn’t provide highly relevant results. Webrings offered a solution to this problem uniquely and straightforwardly.
A webring is a list of websites that are similar to each other. A person called the Ringmaster approves and adds them to the webring. Each site in the webring puts the navigation box at the bottom of their site, which lets visitors go to whichever website they choose next or previous. If you are on the last website in the list and click next, it will start up at the first website again; this makes it like a ring of websites!
The history of Webring.com
Denis Howe created the EUROPa (Expanding Unidirectional Ring Of Pages) at Imperial College in 1994. The idea developed further when Giraldo Hierro created a central CGI (Common Gateway Interface) script to enhance functionality. Sage Weil developed such a script in May 1994. Weil’s script gained popularity, pushing Weil in June 1995 to form a company called WebRing. In 1997, Weil sold WebRing to Starseed, Inc.
In 1998, GeoCities bought Starseed. They didn’t change the system. Then in 1999, Yahoo! bought GeoCities for $3.57 billion in stock, and webrings just came along with their purchase. They might not have cared about webrings but they did care about how to make it into a place that will generate money for them, and 18 months later they changed it. Many people were unhappy with the changes because they had less control of their WebRing.
Many bad changes happened, but they were supposed to make the service better. But instead, they made the service worse.
First, Yahoo made it so that people now need a Yahoo account to manage a webring. This probably would have been okay if the system was able to keep track of who the Ringmaster of a webring is. But instead, the first person to log in and associate with a webring became its new Ringmaster. So many webrings were stuck because their original owners could not reclaim ownership because they had been grabbed by someone who basically “squatted” on them with no intention of giving up ownership.
Yahoo’s new navigation bar changed the way webrings work. In the old system, a visitor would start from one site and travel through a list of sites to another site, chosen by an individual Ringmaster. In Yahoo’s new system, visitors would look at Yahoo’s pages for webrings as well as ads. Visitors now go to Yahoo’s homepage as their first stop instead of going directly to the Ringmaster who created the ring. This made the webrings less popular. It took attention away from the ringmasters and their roles in the webring. It placed all of the focus on Yahoo’s ecosystem instead. Because they were mostly done for free, there was no money coming in to keep them going.
Too late, not enough.
On April 15, 2001, Yahoo gave up on webrings altogether. Most of the webrings staff was laid off in 2001. One technician from the original WebRing, Timothy Killeen took over. On October 12, 2001, he released WebRing with many of the features that had been removed by Yahoo!.
Though Killeen intended to return the system to its former glory, by the time he took it over it was too late. Search engines were starting to come into their own, better solving the problem webrings once addressed.
On September 26, 2006, Webring announced a new program. It separated memberships into two types: WebRing 1.0 and WebRing 2.0.
In the 1.0 membership, you can have up to 50 webrings per URL as long as you were a member before that date. If not, then you can only have up to 50 webrings per URL too but not add more after that date of September 26th, 2006).
In the 2.0 membership, people who join will be able to have unlimited numbers of webrings at their URLs as long as they pay for the upgraded membership status and buy your premium membership from your site or another website through an affiliate program where someone gets paid when other people join.
Until recently, Webring.org was still on the internet. It was more like something from the past than a place people go to nowadays. But now, it is not on the internet anymore – you can only see it on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
There was a website called Alt-webring.com which was similar to Ringlink (Free CGI Perl program for running webrings.). The first “Alt-webring” appeared in the Internet Archive in September 2006. Alt-webring.com has since closed and now belongs to someone else.
Webringo is a website that is now back. It was taken down for a while but now it’s back. The first “webringo” appeared in the Internet Archive in September 2006, but it disappeared. But now someone who likes to take care of Webringo has made it better and brought it back.
RingSurf.com was a website that you can find on the Internet. The site first appeared in the Internet Archive in June 1998. It has a list of rings that are no longer accessible.
There are programs for webrings. The most popular webring services used their own proprietary software, but there are also a few programs that you can use that do not depend on an off-site service. Ringlink, SimpleRing, PHP-Ring, and Ringmaker are some examples.