Roaming the Web, as I do, I’ve started noticing more linkblogs of late.

For the purposes of this post I’m defining a linkblog as a blog dedicated to passing along URL links, as opposed to a normal blog which would have a mixture of content posts and link posts.  The purpose of a linkblog is to pass along interesting links to any readers.  So they are a curated stream of interesting links.

When blogging became popular in the 2000’s, some bloggers found so many neat links that they found it advantageous to dedicate a seperate blog specifically for recommending links, and thus the linkblog was born.

But since the 2000’s linkblogs have been sort of falling out of favor along with blogging as many people switched to social network silos.  In 2018 it was kinda rare to come across a dedicated linkblog.  But recently I’ve stumbled upon several newish ones which give me hope that linkblogs might be making a comeback.  We’re not talking massive amounts here but enough to be noticeable.

You can find them in the linkblog section of our directory.

 

Best ways to follow a linkblog.

Putting the linkblog’s RSS feed into your feed reader is an excellent way to get a steady stream of links to interesting things.  Or, if you don’t use a feed reader you can look and see if the linkblog has a newsletter or a subscribe by email notification system for new posts.  Either method lets you sit back and get notified only when the linkblogger posts something new.

Thinking of starting your own linkblog?

It’s pretty easy to start a linkblog, all you need is a simple blog.  Many of the linkblogs at the link above tell you where they are hosted so poke around and explore.  I do recommend that your linkblog have a RSS feed and a newsletter feature since those are ways people can subscribe.

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My favorite search engine www.mojeek.com has created a bunch of 88×31 buttons.

If you collect buttons on your website button wall and want something unusual here they are:

Retro buttons: circa mid-2000’s to the early teens. Based on old Mojeek logos from those times.

Current buttons:  based on the current logo.

I recommend it for general purpose searching, if you have not tried Mojeek.  I like it for the following reasons:  1. privacy, they don’t track you, 2. they have their own index, 3. because they have their own index they tend to come up with lesser known websites in their results.

But whatever, even if you don’t try Mojeek or use them, if you want a free button they got them.

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Are you looking to build more non-commercial websites?  Perhaps you have created your own personal website and you’re looking for a new project?  How abouut building an: expert website?  I’m talking about more than just writing a blog article – an expert site is a whole website – a deep dive – dedicated to something you know a lot about.  We had them once upon a time.

I see lots of personal websites and personal blogs both of which I enjoy.  But I don’t see as many expert websites like existed in the old Geocities days: these are sites, created by an individual, where he/she shows their expertise on some subject, and I’d like to see these comeback.

People would create a site about whatever they were passionate about and had some knowledge about.  There was no Wikipedia, so if you had knowledge about a topic you created a website about it and shared with others.  For example, there was no end to: Star Trek sites, TV show episode, character and shooting location guides, fan sites, hobby sites, how to sites, history sites, cooking sites and sites about so many subjects it’s hard to count them all.  These websites were more than just animated GIF’s, these sites were the stuff and substance of the Web.  They were also the “street fair” of the web as they enlightened and entertained us.

Eventually, for a lot of reasons I won’t get into, Geocities died and most of this information disappeared.  Eventually, Wikipedia was born and took over some functions of independent websites like TV episode guides, character guides, book and author guides, actor fansites with bio’s, etc.

 

But but, we have Wikipedia

I like Wikipedia, but I recognize that Wikipedia is a silo, a fairly benign one, but a silo nonetheless. I use it a lot, but there is a difference between writing on Wikipedia and writing by one voice, (for example) Wikipedia’s TV episode guides are in effect written by committee, not by any one individual.  You don’t get the unique insights of each fan or expert on that show when we had 10, 20, 50, 100 different unique guides all on the same TV show.

My point is, I’d like to see more of these sites: non-commercial, independent, created by individuals for the joy of sharing knowledge or arts.  Some work well as static sites and blogs or CMS’s might work for others.  The Independent Web, (the retroweb, yesterweb, slow web, whatever) needs substance.  It needs content (although I hate that word.)  And it needs these things to be independent of the silo’s.

 

Below are some examples.

Examples:

Midsomer Murders

Let’s Watch Star Trek

Mark’s B9 Robot Resources

ArcticBoy’s American Motors SIte

 


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About this update:  This is an update of an article from 2022.  There have been enough improvements in 2 years to warrant an update!  2024 updates are in red.  Some items have not changed enough to be updated.

/About this update.

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.)
  • Directories – Update 2024:  Directories serving the retroweb have come and gone over the last 2 years, but people are trying.  I’m not seeing new php directories run by server scripts, but I am seeing a lot of very extensive static link pages (see below) that qualify as small directories which is cool.  But I do see steady traffic from some personal website oriented directories so people are using them.  My favorite directory is Joe Jenett’s i.webthings directory which is constantly being updated.
  • 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.
  • Search Engines – Update 2024:  All the above are still around and recommended.  A new search engine that leans toward the non-commercial sites has started beta testing called Ichido.  It incorporates some neat ideas like telling you if the site has an RSS feed or lots of advertising.  Ichido is crawling the web and has it’s own index but we won’t know how good it can be until it grows that index significantly.  Right now it’s kinda small.  For general search engines: Mojeek continues to grow fast, and some new search engines like Yep, Stract and Mwmbl are testing.  Unfortunately, Gigablast ceased operations in 2023.
  • Blog Hostsfree 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.
  • Blogrolls and Link pages – Update 2024:  Both blogrolls and link pages are becoming common practice.  Some link pages are extensive.
  • 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 Hosting – Update 2024:  Free static hosting has grown so there are more choices than just Neocities (which is still going strong).  Here are some new choices:  Ichi, Leprd, Marigold Town, and Geocities.club.
  • 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.
  • Static Websites – Update 2024:  This continues to grow!  People are having fun expressing themselves on the Web and learning HTML too.  What’s not to like?
  • 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.
  • Forums – Update 2024:  I’ll put a plug in for a forum to join that is really good for retroweb fans, Melonland Forum.
  • Hosted Toolsremotely 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.
  • Hosted Tools – Update 2024:  No great change.
  • 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.
  • Webring Hosting – Update 2024:  It’s in beta but Neorings is a new webring host.
  • 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.
  • Banner Exchanges – Update 2024:  Here is a good list of 4 free banner exchanges.

 

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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Old School Site Promotion 1998 Style

 

To set the scene, back in the late 1990’s everybody on the web was trying to come to grips with web discovery.  That is the discovery of different websites.  There were search engines, lots of them large and small, and frankly none were any good.  There were thousands of general web directories again large ones, smaller ones, many regional ones.  There were also thousands of niche directories: dedicated to different genres, some dedicated to Star Trek, Star Wars, sports, collecting, hobbies etc.  And there were webrings and banner exchanges.

 

Even the best search engines of the day were unlikely to find a personal website by crawling, in a timely manner,  like they do today.  So that raised the question: How do I get people to notice/visit my website?

 

The solution was to Add Your URL to as many search engines and directories as you could.  The idea being that no matter what web index a visitor used you and your site were listed. People would see the name of your site over and over again and eventually check it out.  Mind you, this was all before SEO and link popularity was a thing.  This was about navigating the web, not about getting inbound links like today.

 

Modern search engines have made us webmasters passive about building traffic and recognition.

 

What went Wrong?

 

All this came home to me when I built site submission guides for personal static websites and personal blogs.  I’ve written up similar guides 20 years or more ago and back then I could come up with 20 – 30 quality free directories without even trying.  Today I was hard pressed to come up with a dozen.  It showed me how much of the underlying Web 1.0 infrastructure has been lost.  It wasn’t just the homepages on Geocities that went dark, it was also all the infrastructure that supported those free websites that also has disappeared.

 

Help Bypass the Big Tech Silo Overlords

 

The few tiny search engines and directories that still have a means for you to Add Your URL, need your support by doing just that – submit your URL to them.  This helps fight the Big Tech silo duopoly of Google and Bing, Twitter and Facebook. It helps you to reach beyond Neocities to the general public.  It all helps raise your “Channels of Visibility“.  The more channels you are on the better off you are.

 

The Common Wisdom Tips of Old School Self Promotion

 

  1. Submit your URL to every search engine and directory you can, as mentioned above.
  2. Be sure to include the keywords that describe your site in any description requested.
  3. When a new search engine or directory is announced, submit your URL right away.  It is easier to get into a directory or search engine when it is new and needs URL’s to satisfy search queries.  Later on they get fat with both real submissions or spam submissions so getting listed gets harder or they change the criteria to make it harder to get listed (ie. only allowing top level domains and forbidding subdomains, or requiring payment.)  The point is, get in while they really need you and while it’s free.
  4. On personal websites, static or blog, only YOU know what is important on your website.  Don’t expect a directory editor to intuit and find everything on your site and then custom write a description for you.  The editor is busy, has 20 other sites waiting in line they don’t have time to really ruminate on your website contents.  This is why you should not wait for a directory to find your site and maybe add it.  You need to be proactive, if the directory allows you to add your URL you should do it so you have a chance of getting the best description.
  5. The above holds true webrings.

 

The New: Social Networking

 

What did not really exist back in the 1990’s was social networking as we understand it today.  The practice of POSSE: Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere, is another way of bypassing the Big Tech search engine gatekeepers.  It helps, but the effects are fleeting.  A directory listing lasts a long time but a mention in a Tweet might give you a burst of traffic but then that disappears.  So do use POSSE, where appropriate, but don’t rely on it alone.

 

 

 


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I made a Thing!

 

I made a new webring, Retroweb Ring

 

A webring for non-commercial personal pages be they static homepages or blogs or non-commercial directories that list the 1995 – 2005 style Web pages. No hate, no resumes, no third party advertising.

 

You are invited to join if you have a qualifying site, because the ring is new so it’s kind of lonely here.  *cricket* *cricket*  :)  See link above.

 

After a number of false starts a few years ago, I finally made a functioning webring.  Another thing I can cross off my bucket list.  And it comes at a good time because I’ve been surfing other webrings and having a great time doing it, which started the itch to build one back up.

 

The Retroweb Ring is powered by webri.ng.

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What if you combined a webring with a blogroll (or linkroll?)

We need to define an important difference between the two:

  1. Webring: the site webmaster must ask to join a webring and place a special ringcode on his website.
  2. Blogroll is a list of websites compiled by one person.  The sites listed have not requested to be included as they would with a webring.

 

What if you could combine aspects of the two?

 

What if you had a script that let you create lists of websites, navigate through the list – going to each site (actually “around” the list because once you reached the end you would start over at the beginning)?  The navigation would be handled by a narrow Frame which would which would have links to Previous, Next, Random and Index, plus a link to remove the frame and drop out of the ring if you found a website you really wanted to explore in depth.

Additional features:

  1. Anyone could create a “ring,” subject to moderation.  This means anyone can create and curate collections of related links without running their own server or paying for hosting.
  2. Rings, once approved, would appear in a directory of rings.
  3. Webmasters could apply to join an existing ring and have the option of placing a link to the ring on their website.
  4. People creating rings do not have to wait for webmasters to apply for ring membership.
  5. The ability to Navigate around the sites listed in the ring makes it different than just a blogroll or linkroll.

 

Huh?  Wait a minute, This sounds familiar.

None of what I just described is new, if you are old enough you will remember that what I just described is how Bomis and Bomis Rings worked!  See Bomis on Archive.org.

Bomis and it’s directory of rings (the directory built on top of a copy of Dmoz.org) was intended to be a sort of crowd sourced directory for navigating the web in a manner similar to the indexes of rings at the traditional webring hosts (see the directory of rings on Webringo as an example.)

Bomis had the advantage of speed vs. traditional webrings.  You could make a Bomis Ring almost as fast as it took to create a blogroll.  You did not have to wait for webmasters to apply to join, place a ringcode etc.  Bomis was about just doing it.  Not waiting for permission.  Collect your links and then share them with the world in a fun to navigate fashion.

 

Downsides

  • Some webmasters may object to their website being shown in a frame.  This area is a bit fuzzy.  Opt-in webrings like Webringo (above) have frames as one ringcode option – but again they are opt-in and the webmaster has to place the JS code on their own site.  Discovery services like Stumbleupon used browser toolbars but may have also used frames but I don’t remember.
  • Bomis style was very plain compared to the flashy HTML webrings of old.
  • Because most sites are added by the ring owner, the sites do not have a link back to the ring so they cannot feed traffic back to the ring.

 

Anyway, is anything I wrote not clear?  We are not talking about a commercial for profit enterprise, but would it work today?  I wish somebody would code it up because I think it would be useful today.

 

 

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