Tuesday May 03

Webrings are making a come-back

My new obsession is webrings. You might think this is a step backwards rather than forwards, but I think webrings are making a comeback. The problem with them before was that their positioning was wrong. They were (and still are) touted as traffic drivers, but each ring is so niche, traffic numbers are miniscule. But now that expressing oneself online with blogs and tagging are becoming more popular, webrings are being revived as a way of creating your self-identity on the internet.

A webring is basically an opt-in directory like all the thousands of opt-in directories on the internet. But webrings are amateur directories that put the power of their creation in the hands of Joe Public. And unlike most self-made directories, they automatically generate customised code that each ring member displays on their own website that identifies their interests to their visitors.

There are two main webring creation networks. http://Ringsurf.com and http://Webring.com Webring.com was the original and Ringsurf.com came shortly after. But both of them have changed little in the last 10 years they have been around. And they haven't had to because ironically hardly any competitors have entered their market. So they both look like time stopped for them since the early 1990s and they have spent relatively little in their development for the past few years.

Of the two, I prefer Ringsurf.com because you can create and host your own ring home page and you can easily customise your own ring code with a little HTML knowledge. Webring however uses javascript in its ring code to enforce compliance and it does not offer the option of using your own ring home page. Ringsurf.com retains the short and simple text-only ring code, whereas webring.com's default code (in the name of extra features for the ringmaster) has become large, ugly and includes graphics and tables.

The comeback of webrings is only being hampered by ringsurf.com and webring.com's outdated branding. It would be much speeded up with a more professional-looking website and updated features. They need features such as RSS feeds and community building tools like mailing lists and marketing tools like email-invitation features. I emailed both companies with suggestions, but neither one has replied. Still, I'm already happy with the simple and customisable features that Ringsurf.com currently offers. I set up my own ring directory for iBook owners and pro-bloggers in less than 10 minutes.

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I'm an online brand planner and SEO specialist in Malaysia. XHTML, CSS and PHP hacker. for branding and content planning and execution, offline and online. I'm also available for speaking and writing engagements.

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