I started this directory in 2018. Human edited directories were dead. There were a few around but not a lot. Discovery was all about search engines, namely Google and Bing, to the exclusion of everybody else. Webrings were dead, blogrolls had fallen out of favor, ditto RSS. It seemed like everything had gone commercial and all corporate suit slick and tricky and that maybe the fun part of the Web had died.
But there were pockets of webmasters building a web revival. Webmasters at Neocities, bloggers at Indieweb.org were not willing to give ground and let Web 1.0 die out. They started reviving old practices like using RSS, blogrolls, static sites – the fun stuff.
But we lost a lot of Web 1.0. A lot of the infrastructure built to support the independent web 1.0 had fallen into ruin or was just gone. We need to replace the best of this Web 1.0 infrastructure to continue.
Things have changed, mainly for the better, since 2018 so I thought I would give you my opinion on where we stand now in 2022.
- Directories – This has been a pleasant surprise. While directories never quite died off, since 2018 quite a few new small directories have been built. I think Kicks Condor got people thinking about small directories again. On the big directory front Curlie has refreshed itself and come alive. The thing is, we need more. Directories come in so many styles, sizes, each with different features, categories, niches and collections of links. Some are geographical, some are topical, some are general and some are personal collections of cool links so there is no limit to how many directories there can be. For individuals who want to start a directory I recommend you find a niche that is under served. The best directory niche I see right now is for the non-commercial retro static html type sites. (Example.) The second niche would be a directory for non-commercial personal blogs. Or you can do a bit of both. (Example.)
- Search Engines – Actually, great progress has been made on the search engine front. For the Slow Web we have Wiby.me, Marginalia and Searchmysite. On the privacy search engine front we have Mojeek, Brave Search, each with their own index gaining ground. Gigablast seems to have improved their algo and expanded their index. And other search engines with their own indexes are going through beta testing.
- Blog Hosts – free and low cost blog hosting is an important part of the underlying infrastructure of the independent web. Unfortunately, we have sort of a mixed bag to report. The Negatives: WordPress.com and Blogger used to be the free gateway sites for those wanting to start a personal blog. The first seems to be focusing on expensive premium addons while limiting the free service. The latter has stagnated and nobody is really sure if Google will continue the Blogger service which puts a damper on using them. The price of domains and full WordPress script self hosting have risen a lot over the last few years which creates a bar to entry. The Positives: There is some good news in that quite a few new blog hosting platforms have started up, Micro.blog and others come to mind, and are helping to fill the gap.
- Blogrolls and Link pages – Bloggers and retro webmasters have really stepped up on this front. Bloggers are once again creating blogrolls, a practice that many had abandoned. The resurgent surf-the-web movement among retro/yesterweb static site webmasters means nearly every personal homepage has a links page in addition to linked buttons to their friends homepages. It’s a fantastic thing.
- RSS – just a few years ago RSS seemed dead. Even many bloggers has turned off their RSS feeds and feed reading software and services were slowly dying. Yet RSS is a way to by-pass the search engine duopoly of Google and Bing. But something has happened. RSS is making a slow comeback along with the underlying infrastructure. Even Neocities lets webmasters put an RSS feed on static websites somehow. Anyway, both webmasters and users are rediscovering RSS which is a good thing.
- Static Hosting – Neocities, Neocities, Neocities. Neocities is really where the action is for hosting static sites for free or freemium. They offer a lot without ads and have created a community of webmasters. I’m not sure what the retroweb would do without them. We could use a few more hosts like them just so we don’t put all our eggs in one basket. I found little Vistaserv.net which sort of helps. If you know of others please tell me in the comments below.
- Static Websites – (see Static Hosting above). This is going good and growing. To me it seems like an explosion of static sites but the reality is this has been growing since the launch of Neocities in 2015.
- Forums – Forums are sort of the original social networks of the Web. They were great because you could start a forum on almost any topic large or small. They were decentralized before decentralization was cool. Forums fell out of favor after Web 2.0 social networks like Twitter and Facebook started. Yet somehow, forums never quite died and just about anyone with a C-panel type hosting account can start one. I’m seeing a younger generation starting forums because forums lend themselves to long form posts better than many other platforms.
- Hosted Tools – remotely hosted tools used to be everywhere back in the 1990’s when almost all personal websites were static. Things like guestbooks, reply forms were desired and provided by third parties. Most were “free” meaning ad supported and when Geocities died they started dying too. I recently went hunting for these and the news is not good. Some companies are still around but with reduced offerings. Some old hosts seem to be operating but have not been updated for years. Some seem to be offering a fairly modern product but those are very few. Not a lot of health in this part of the infrastructure.
- Webrings – I’m delighted to say I was completely wrong when I said webrings would not make a comeback. They have. Lots of coders have come up with scripts on how to start your own webring. Mind you I’m not sure how easy it is to manage a webring using these scripts but new webrings serving the non-commercial web are coming along all the time. Martha, there really is a webring revival.
- Webring Hosting – I’m talking about centralized hosts here. Webring is dead. Ringsuf is on life support and closed to new signups. Bravenet pulled the plug on webring hosting years ago. (I wish Bravenet would dust off the old scripts and and lead the revival and bring webrings back.) That leaves only Webringo. They are still around and still function but the Web could use some new blood in this sector. See the old webring hosts had a lot of tools behind the scenes, back in the Ringmaster’s admin panel, that really helped the Ringmaster manage the continuity of the webring (ie. checkers for ring codes, dead site checkers and an email system to contact individual members.) Because when you get 200 or more members in a webring it becomes a lot of work to manage. I’m not sure the various new individual scripts people are using have this sort of back-end management features. UPDATE 23 June 2022: There is a new webring host webri.ng. It’s new and a bit spartan but you can host a webring there.
- Banner Exchanges – Dead. It’s a pity. My first commercial venture, prior to the burst of the First Web Bubble, was a niche Science Fiction and Fantasy banner exchange. In fact, I built my first niche web directory to help find members for that banner exchange. Oh well.
So am I right, wrong, way off and if so how? Also what did I miss? Leave a comment below to tell me about it.
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@bradenslen Banner Exchanges!!! 🙂
@bradenslen Fabulous post and summary. 👍🏼