We present here the history of various webring systems as described by those that created them, or failing that, by person or persons who have carefully documented the history of a particular webring system/s.

Ringlink

Ringlink 1.0 was released three years ago through this message to the old RingManager list at eGroups:
http://arc.ringlink.org/ringlink-open/msg00000.html

Let me take this opportunity to give you “The Birth of Ringlink” out from my perspective. To some extent it also contains some rhapsodical comments on WebRing, but I think it has to be that way. WebRing was first, WebRing is the giant, and most things about webrings take place in the shadow of WebRing. That’s how it is.

The Quotation Ring

Some people would not consider me to be much of a ringmaster. I have one webring, the only ring I ever had. This story needs to begin with that ring, the Quotation Ring.

I started it about 5.5 years ago on the WebRing system. I had just created a tiny personal site, that happened to include a quotes page, and linking together quotations pages around the world appeared to be a nice idea.

The Quotation Ring had already been started, but when I tried to join, the ringmaster proved to have lost her interest. This was far before “adoptions” was administrated by the WebRing staff, so I emailed the ringmaster, got her blessing to start my own ring with the same name, and also got her permission to use the graphics.

I customized the ring, including the list page, which was fully customizable. (You were even allowed to suppress the few ads that existed at that time.) Then I looked for quotations sites on the web, and invited the webmasters to join. Think I sent somewhere between 75-100 such invitations. I started a discussion forum for the ring members, and the ring grew rapidly.

There was an independent mailing list for WebRing users, and a few Usenet groups, where ringmasters helped each other and exchanged opinions and experiences.

The Quotation Ring grew to a few hundred member sites, and I was ‘in charge’. The members showed their appreciation. I was proud.

It was fun. 🙂

There was an IT boom out there. The WebRing ownership was changed a couple of times, probably resulting in some people getting rich, while others (Yahoo!) paid a fortune for WebRing, and after a while they wanted to get some return from their investment.

Things began to change, and the changes were typically presented as “exciting news”. You were no longer allowed to suppress the ads. Yahoo’s strategy, to utilize the huge database with ringmasters and members to drive as much traffic as possible to their pages, became more and more evident. The “Hub” page, with a lot of links to various Yahoo! owned resources, replaced the highly customizable list page. Navigating a webring was not as pleasant as it used to be.

The support at WebRing was either unavailable, or unreceptive for suggestions.

It was not as fun as before.

A new mailing list, “RingManager”, was established by Dave Kay as the new forum for the ring community. RingManager aimed to support the original ideas with webrings. Now it was the beginning of the year 2000.

Webring Script?

I had installed and modified a couple of simple CGI scripts, and I started to play with the thought of creating a script as a collaborative effort among a few dedicated ringmasters, that could serve a webring from any site. Such a script would make it possible to design my ring exactly as I wanted it to be, and I would get full control.

I knew I wasn’t able to do it myself. For gods sake, I was not a programmer! But when testing the idea at “RingManager”, I got some positive responses.

Okay, now there were already a few webring scripts. None of the scripts I explored was good enough, at least in my opinion. But maybe one of them could be made “open source”, forming the starting-point of a full-fledged webring script? Why re-invent the wheel? I tried to convince the owner of RingWorld of that idea, but was turned down. “We can’t do that.”

Mike Rudberg started the “Ringers” project. Maybe that was it? However, Mike had decided to use the C programming language, and to me that seemed not to be the right choice for the wide-spread script that I would like to see.

So, how would you organize a few ringmasters, spread around the world, to write a webring program from scratch? Especially when you knew very little about programming yourself? I had absolutely no idea. The crazy idea, to start by my own, was born. With a programming experience basically limited to customizing a guestbook script and studying a couple of webring scripts, I began.

Reading a book or two about Perl and CGI had been very appropriate, but that was not what I did. Instead I surfed the web for guidance as soon as I encountered a problem. Which I of course did for basically every new step I took…

It was utmost irrational. But slowly, slowly I made progress. And it was fun! Finally, after having dedicated the whole summer (fortunately a rather rainy summer) to Ringlink, I was able to share it with the world at July 31, 2000.
Created by Ringmasters for Ringmasters

It’s worth noting that Ringlink was created out from an _idea_, i.e. the idea of giving the ringmaster of a webring as much control as possible. The Ringlink slogan, “created by ringmasters for ringmasters”, was formulated several months before the first Ringlink version was released.

Let me take this opportunity to remind you of how Ringlink is intended to be used:

Install the Program on your own server or webhosting account, and run one or more of your own webrings.

Install the Program on your own server or webhosting account, and provide a small-scale webring service, offering a few other ringmasters the opportunity to run their rings at your Ringlink installation.

It’s easy to understand that the ringmaster can get full control by installing the program on his or her own webhosting account. But what about creating a webring at somebody else’s Ringlink installation? Doesn’t that make the ringmaster as dependent on the webring host, as had been the case if she or he had created the ring at WebRing or RingSurf?

My answer to that question is: No!

For a couple of reasons, running your webring on Ringlink – any Ringlink installation – gives you conclusive advantages compared to other alternatives:

There are hundreds of Ringlink webring hosts to choose between.

If the service of your current host would deteriorate, you can simply take a backup copy of your webring [1], send the backup file to some other Ringlink ring host, and ask him or her to upload it.

[1] This works safest with version 2.34 or higher.

Even if such a move of a webring means that the ringmembers need to change the ring code, I dare to say that the independence that Ringlink offers the ringmasters is unique.

My feeling is that Ringlink 3.0 makes up a complete whole, and I believe that it serves the intended fields of application, as described above, rather well.

At the same time I’d like to say that Ringlink is probably not suitable for a _really_ big webring hosting service. I believe that a program serving such a service needs significantly different technical solutions in some respects. Even if I have started to *play with the thought* of making such changes, for instance add an option to make Ringlink interact with a SQL database, I’d like to emphasize that such possible changes would be beyond the scope of the idea with Ringlink.

So, to summarize:

Ringlink was created out from an idea.
The current Ringlink release serves that idea quite well.

Gunnar Hjalmarsson
The Developer of the Ringlink program,
and a founding member of the WOW website.

Ringlink http://www.ringlink.org/
“created by ringmasters for ringmasters”

WebRing

The original WebRing scripts were written in Perl by Sage Weil in 1995, he was seventeen years of age at the time. WebRing was warmly welcomed as one of the most exciting new ideas on the Web. Within a few short years, WebRing grew to accommodate seventy thousand rings consisting of 1.5 million sites.

WebRing was sold to Starseed, then to GeoCities, which was assimilated by Yahoo. Yahoo failed utterly to appreciate its new acquisition. They attempted to integrate WebRing into their properties, idiot proofing it for easy use by the uninitiated. WebRing development became hopelessly misdirected, and alienated ringmasters abandoned it en masse.

At the end of 2001, Yahoo gave WebRing up for dead, releasing it into the care of Tim Killeen (but retaining ownership of the WebRing.com domain name), the last remaining original WebRing system technician and a former member of our discussion group. A new chapter has begun in the history of WebRing. With a mix of cynicism and hopeful anticipation the ring community stands ready to assist Tim’s ambitious effort to restore WebRing to functionality.

This functionality has now been restored, and even expanded to include almost every new feature a Ringmaster could ever dream of. However, the level of complexity now involved has made this a webring system best suited for a experienced Ringmaster, or one who just wishes to place his or her webring on auto-pilot.

This webring system is provided ‘free’ with pop-ups, pop-unders, banners on every page, Google Adds, and PayPal requests for donations. However, you can pay to have all these annoyances removed, and also even have your system actively promoted by WebRing.com.

There is a Japan WebRing that still uses the original WebRing.org program and logo, as it existed before WebRing.org became Y!WebRing and then WebRing.com.

On the positive side this webring system has a vibrant and active official community managed by Andrea (wrug) and Tim (webring), which provides excellent support and advise when needed within the various WebRing support forums!

There is also the unofficial WebRing Guide managed by James (jliilj), which is considered as the best source for information on WebRing.com to be found anywhere on the Web!

RingSurf

RingSurf was a webring system first built and operated by Hunter Gordon, a former member of our group. RingSurf would prove to be a very popular webring system, said to be most like the early WebRing.org. Slow to start, RingSurf surged with new life when the old WebRing.org was bought out by Yahoo on a Black Tuesday in early September 2000! Outraged Ringmasters started looking about for a new home for their webrings, and RingSurf just happened to be in the right place at the right time! This resulted in hundreds or even thousands of angry RingMasters migrating their rings from Y!WebRing to RingSurf. 🙂

Then followed a few months of great excitement (The Golden Age of RingSurf) as Hunter actively interacted with members of the webring community, adopted their suggestions, and established the Netring Guides. The Netring Guides were to help other Ringmasters and their ring members, and also clean up the RingSurf Directory and suggest new categories. Hunter even provided dozens of forums and special forms that the Netring Guides could use to help ringmasters, suggest new categories, and move rings from 1 category to another (It took 3 NGs voting ‘yes’ before a ring was moved). He also at their suggestion setup a very popular ‘My Rings’ feature that not only listed RingSurf rings but also Y!WebRing rings, not to mention several other great new features.

Then just 3 months to the day after Black Tuesday, Hunter vanished, and RingSurf was put on auto-pilot. The forums and support forms were disabled, all requests for information from confused and hurt NetRing Guides were ignored, and a once vibrant RingSurf community was decimated almost overnight!

It was later learned that he had gone off to work on another project, one that might just make him some money, which is something that the old RingSurf was never able to do. Since then a few loyal Ringmasters (most notable being Debby T) have patiently waited for Hunter’s 2nd coming, to no avail. Meanwhile RingSurf sputtered on, it’s ring directory festered and became bloated with bogus and abandoned webrings, it survived a massive spam attack that briefly caught Hunter’s fleeting attention, and it was then that most thought that Ringsurf was doomed to a ignominious and horrible death in some dark dank and forgotten corner of the Web.

Then just as things were at their worst, it was revealed on August 16th 2003, that there was a new “owner” of the RingSurf.com webring system. Shortly after that, Robert (Rob) Sheinbein of ezd.com posted on our mailing list soliciting input as to new features:

Hi,

I would like to say thank-you to everyone who has been emailing me with thoughts about the new Ringsurf.com. James, everyone has been saying that you are the man when it comes to rings.

We want ringsurf.com to provide useful content to its users and traffic to member sites. We have programmers on staff and have started a functional specs. We are starting our feature list and would appreciate any feedback. Can we start a feature list on your site? I am new to rings but not the Internet. I have big visions for ringsurf.com and have the staff to manage it. I am leaning towards writing the software from scratch unless someone can provide the perfect fit. In either case, I expect the new version to be up within six weeks max. Again, we would appreciate all help in suggestions for a feature list and I can be reached at rob@ezd.com. Can you please post this on your site.

Thanks,
Robert Sheinbein

A lively discussion then began within our World of Webrings community mailing list (see archives), and then the waiting started. It now being rumored that the New RingSurf will be announced any day now!

The old RingSurf system though functional had a unfinished feel to it, was awash in abandoned webrings, and was not recommended as a place to host one’s webrings. If you were not an experienced Ringmaster, you would find that you could not work around the many errors and inconsistencies in the level of service that was being provided! So, it is with great anticipation that the webring community now awaits the birth of the NEW RingSurf, which hopefully be user freindly to all Ringmasters, and provide trully outstanding service!

The old RingSurf was provided ‘free’ with pop-ups, pop-unders, banners on every page, and no guarantees of continued service. It is still not clear as to what the new business model for the new RingSurf will be, but there has been some indications that it will not be as blantantly commercial as say the WebRing.com webring system.

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