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      Also consider the blogroll: After webrings and hit counters died out, blogs and webcomics would often list in a sidebar several links their readers might like. It was just as low-tech and could develop mutually-boosting relationships between site owners, but it didn’t rely on multiple sites coordinating to get started.

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        I love blogrolls, in my experience of the early internet and blog scene, being able to bounce from one website to another via their blogrolls made the experience feel more like exploring or digital spelunking.

        I “recently” created the Hyperlink Club “webring” for personal websites with a blogroll https://github.com/photogabble/hyperlink-cafe as my small contribution to keeping blogroll’s alive.

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        It’s funny, this is just a list of likes, or “friends” in the FB context, or “follows” in a Twitter context, etc.

        And yet they feel different.

        I think we just hate that middleman, that rent seeker, that company mediating these age-old social patterns whereby we expand our networks (of people or ideas or anything else) using the networks we already have.

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          It’s different because it’s “liking” someone doesn’t “promote” them to anyone’s “feed”. It’s just a passive recommendation: “hey, try this”. It’s part of a system of reading (I cringe to say “content consumption”) that’s reader-driven rather than algorithm-driven.

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        agreed. i didn’t care much for webrings even the first time around; the topology isn’t really conducive to how i want to surf the web. but i loved blogrolls, and the websites that were little more than a large, vaguely categorised soup of the author’s favourite links, and similar “if you like my site go check out some of the sites i like” content.

        the closest thing i can think of these days is awesomelists over on github (actually the “see also” culture is alive and well in open source, lots of projects have links to similar projects in their readme)

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        I don’t remember any blogs in computing that have blogrolls, but, of the three mathematicians at whose blogs I remember having looked, two, Terence Tao and Timothy Gowers, had and still have quite large blogrolls, although the third, Andrej Bauer, doesn’t appear to have one. (Of those three, Bauer is the most into computing; I wonder whether that matters somehow.)

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      So the indy web still exists, and it laughs at “maximizing profit by maximizing online engagement”. Not just webrings, there is also a finger ring. Try

      finger lily@lilysthings.org
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        Hey that’s me you’re fingering!

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          if you follow the fingerhole youll get to me eventually too

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            finger lily@lilysthings.org

            Looks like that’s everyone in the ring then!

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          Out of curiosity, what software are you using and how is this setup? I recall team-TESO fingerd exploits in the early 00s, is fingerd secure these days?

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        ah yes, my finger ring friends.

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      All these attempts to resurrect the “good old days” of the web smack of cargo culting. People are obsessed with the outer forms - Usenet! Blogging! - instead of the socio-economic reality. Back then, writing a blog was the most convenient and popular way of getting engagement online. Now, it’s not. The technology, and most important, the audience has moved on , and the methods of making money from it has too.

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        Unless I remember wrong, making money was not a concern for the participants of webrings. Only a (by definition) small and noisy subset of people were trying to optimize “engagement”. Webrings are about discovery, not profit.

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          Same here. Most of the websites I used in 1996 were made by people who were proud that they accomplished something that felt difficult or created a resource they had tried to find but couldn’t and wanted to save others time. Profit wasn’t part of it. A lot of these were hosted on space ISPs made available as part of dial-up plans so cost recovery wasn’t even part of it.

          I do think the world has broken that mold though. The amount of stuff that does not exist or is very difficult to find on the web has shrunk drastically. This has reduced the potential for that intrinsic motivation to share useful resources. Similarly, it has become much, much easier to publish content on the web and to create software. This has reduced the frequency of people accomplishing anything that feels difficult and feeling proud enough to warrant building a bespoke website.

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          That was also true of blogrolls — in the early days. The for-profit blogger was a relatively late development, and one that contributed to the decline of blogs and the rise of social media as we know it.

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        Eh, lots of people are blogging for fun and making dumb web projects like webrings for fun.

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          Same was true in the late 90s as well of course

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        People blogging for money have moved onto silos like Substack and Patreon. The rest of us are doing just fine, and couldn’t care less about “engagement” or chasing an upwards slope on our metrics dashboards.

        I’m not against being able to make some money off blogging, but I don’t think the best blogging comes from making it a major source of growing revenue.

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          Significantly, Substack is marketed as a “newsletter”. The primary alert method is via email.

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        The technology, and most important, the audience has moved on, and the methods of making money from it has too.

        This is a pitch, not a warning!

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        The technology, and most important, the audience has moved on , and the methods of making money from it has too.

        The methods of making money have moved in. That is the problem, money making took over everything. Everything became about money, people reach content through a handfull of entry points that will give the spotlight to a couple of content makers per topic. All reachable through the same top list. Anything outside that filter will be relegated to oblivion and eventually die.

        YouTube has recently removed the option of uploading videos without ads. Facebook, Instagram et al, have long stopped showing you what your connections are posting in favour or an algorithm that you can’t control nor know that will show you a bunch of stuff you didn’t ask for.

        The opportunity for a small website with a stable following base is gone. Everyone gets sent to the big popular content sources instead. There’s also the network effect catalysing this.

        If you search a topic on YouTube or Instagram, the results will consist of content producers whose success got to the point of them leaving whatever other job they add and become professional content creators. It became a competition for serious business while before there were amazing online resources visited by millions that were ran by some unknown dude in the Bolivian mountains or in deep in Siberia in his spare time. Things got more suited for the masses, but the focus was taken away from the enthusiastic smaller group who did it out of passion.

        The same can be observed in sports. When a sport becomes a successful venture, the participants become business owners. Full with business management made to optimize results at the expense of sportsmanship. But it you follow any less professionalized sport, whenever there is a big international cup, the whole event becomes a genuine celebration of the passion for the sport, with displays of much more honest sportsmanship.

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        I feel like something millennials like me miss is that computers and the Internet don’t have the same emotional place in the minds of Gen Z. For us, it was the future. Something the previous generation didn’t understand, the next frontier to explore and have adventures in. Now millennials have bills to pay and children to take care of, so there’s much less room for excitement in our lives and the next generation sees computers and the Internet as a corner that’s already taken. Just another tool of the old world order used to exploit them. I wonder how much this picture contributes to the loss of innocence and beauty online.

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        This is why I treasure lobsters and my local hacker meetup. Not quite relics, but successful echos of what things used to be.

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        The technology, and most important, the audience has moved on , and the methods of making money from it has too.

        Good. Let them move on. Then we who feel curiosity and passion for the world just for its own sake are among ourselves again. I can do without the salespeople and SEO spam.

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        I whole-heatedly disagree. Reading blogs was nicer, more convenient and less weird, and it still is.

        For quite some time I would have agreed with you, in many different contexts. The internet is filled with articles, videos, etc. claiming “you only remember the good bits”, “you only think it was great because it was the best back then”, “you are only being nostalgic”, “if you would try it again it would suck”.

        Just today, co-workers complained about not being able to increase an input field on the website of one of the biggest companies. The other day I tried to contact my bank for the first time, since I needed to send documents I did it online and they have a really low character limit on their input field, so I had to upload my support message as a PDF.

        Or look at how easy it used to be to just download a file into a directory. Try that on your phone when you have to.

        At some point during the heights of the pandemic when I was being nostalgic I decided to put things to the test. Nope, Usenet is still nice, and nicer than alternatives, nope old video games still are nice, nope, doing stuff off the cloud is… not even still good, but better, than it ever was, using a desktop, better than it used to be, building your own desktop, woah, even the cheapest case feels like workstation quality back in the day, etc.

        Managing music on your own system, instead of on some online platform is still so so much nicer, using things like Strawberry.

        And none of those things are ever down, unlike CloudFlare, which made a habit of turning their downtime into an ad, or S3 or Google, or Slack, etc.

        IRC is still better than Discord to get good, quick responses, and with IRCv3 it even got rid of any downsides.

        In general, smaller communities tend to still be higher quality, than.. well, even lobste.rs.

        Meanwhile, on big platforms, it’s all 404s, failing registration, logins, weird white pages, lots of JavaScript errors, with a lot of famous apps and application people started to get used to things not working. I mean not so long ago Video Conferences worked most of the time, but despite the pandemic and what not it’s a great big mess. Meanwhile good old Mumble just works.

        And then the big news sites. Everyone lying about caring about your privacy, everyone wanting you to pay, acting like it’s donations, pretending to somehow be grass roots. While blogs just through out stuff there for free.

        Also I started using Bandcamp for getting my music at the worst possible time I guess.

        So in short: If you think that you probably just are nostalgic and think you are only remembering the good bits, go and verify that thought. There is a real chance that it still works great! Some stuff is even better now, BECAUSE the technology moved on, and because the trolls and self-promoters moved on.

        I don’t know what you mean by cargo culting in that context. Could it be that you used the wrong term here? Maybe you talk about the circle jerking happening in some of those groups. That’s a thing. But sometimes you just have to dig a bit deeper. Or avoid (a big portion of) Gemini fans.

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          I don’t know what you mean by cargo culting in that context. Could it be that you used the wrong term here?

          No, I chose it deliberately.

          I sympathize with the desire to move towards a more user-centric internet. I too believe that the current social-media landscape is a morass of user-hostile surveillance and privacy violations.

          But many (not all) of the proponents of “the small web” confuse the map for the terrain. They think the reason the early internet was less commercial was that people built stuff themselves, or only the very technical could host or even use a website. And they believe that if they go back to that technical environment, the web will become less commercial. But it (probably) won’t! Because the world has moved on. Everything is on the internet now.

          This is in analogy with the real cargo cults, who thought that building replicas of the cargo planes that brought prosperity to islands during WW2 could bring them back.

          I believe the best way to deal with internet surveillance capitalism is robust legislation protecting user’s rights to privacy. That’s going to be hard to bring about, and I don’t have the solutions for it. But I do know that if you want voters to demand that, you’ll need to reach them where they are. Shutting yourself in in exclusive networks is probably not going to work.

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            But many (not all) of the proponents of “the small web” confuse the map for the terrain. They think the reason the early internet was less commercial was that people built stuff themselves, or only the very technical could host or even use a website. And they believe that if they go back to that technical environment, the web will become less commercial. But it (probably) won’t! Because the world has moved on. Everything is on the internet now.

            Interesting. I see it differently. First of all yes, there was a lot more self-build, non-commercial stuff. I was part of some of these things, from interest groups, to private usenet to private for fun game servers and games. People invested their own money and provided stuff they found fun, just like small private clubs.

            The other thing is that I see a bit of a dis-illusionment. I don’t see many people that believe they can change it back. Much rather they try to separate to be able to do their own thing. You can still rent a server, a webspace, etc. and just run your own stuff. At least to some degree.

            I think yes for some stuff (privacy) legislation is the right way, but for the fact that companies intend to squeeze money out of you. That’s somewhere between hard to impossible to fix. Every now and then a company is created with another goal than making money, but actually to satisfy a need, but typically at some point you end up with people that don’t care and just want to get the maximum amount of money with the least amount of work (which is fine).

            Some stuff like having your small community does work. It’s why everyone tells you to join a user group and stuff.

            I agree that making the web less commercial is going to happen, but I also don’t think any form of legislation is going to change that.

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        That, and I suspect there were a lot fewer people, and the people there were very driven to explore and express themselves with the new shiny thing at the time, and were willing to put up with the higher barrier to entry of the mediums available at the time.

        Nowadays, there’s a bigger proportion of people with not much to say, and what they do want to say, they can say what they want on a medium they don’t have to maintain (modern social media) - and they like it this way.

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        It’s a deliberate distancing from “the way things are now”. Sure, you’re missing out on 99.9% of the audience. Lobsters is small (16k users, and far fewer active) because it decided to set itself apart from the norm, in a rather retro way. Yet people find it worth their while to post and comment here. It’s not because we’re driving those millions of ad impressions.

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      Webrings exclude latecomers. After the first few hundred, at best, everyone loses interest in both adding and visiting links. Then at some point the tot sets in.

      Webrings died because many of the links died and there were not removed, let alone replaced.

      Webrings are this by their nature shortlived and tiny in scope, never capturing anything near the full extent of a community, not capturing the very, mostly the most prolific.

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      Webrings are alive and well; they don’t need to be “brought back” because they’re already here.

      I’m in 14 webrings. If you think that’s a lot, foreverkeith.is has a growing list of 100 or so.

      Some have gotten quite large. The Hotline Webring is close to 700 members. The Yesterweb Webring recently shut down because it got too large, past 800 members! Some of the people behind the larger Yesterweb community felt that the webring had gone too mainstream and become a venue for SEO and traffic-boosting rather than a chill network of friendly like-minded people.

      At this point, webrings aren’t some dated concept that’s become tiny and niche. They’re quite mainstream outside of the commercial web.

      Originally posted on https://seirdy.one/notes/2023/11/14/webrings-are-already-back/ (POSSE)

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      If anyone wants, my friend has set up a webring:


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        im still surprised nobody had juicero when i joined

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        I really hoped it was a webring of sites running on appliances. sigh but wink too.

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        Hahaha I love that

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      As one of the co-admins of https://hotlinewebring.club/ I support this message and am happy to answer questions about creating/running/moderating a webring.

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      Thank you for all the webrings mentioned, noted down! I know another one that hasn’t been mentioned here yet. Adding for completeness (I’m not affiliated, nor using it): https://webring.xxiivv.com/

      EDIT: oh, perhaps, someone has to make a webring of webrings (-;

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      Yesterday you found this fly website about amateur radio, and you want to explore more—but how can you find related websites?

      “Fly” as slang was dated even in the 90s - I think Offspring’s Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) was the last gasp of that word in pop culture, and in that context deliberately using a piece of dated and black-coded slang was part of the message of the song.

      I have nothing against webrings, personally, but I don’t particularly have nostalgia for them either. I remember them from some of the websites I visited as a kid in the late 90s/early 2000s, but I don’t remember taking them very seriously as a way to find new interesting websites. Hand-curated pages of links to other websites by contrast were a good way to find content another human thinks is good, and of course those never went away.

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        Also, remembering the terrible internet speeds of the 1990s, traversing a webring meant you had to click and wait (paying by the minute) for another site to load, which might be random, or only vaguely related to the one you were on now. It was really a worthless navigation interface back then. With faster and unmetered connections, they might be slightly less awful. But still not very respectful of the readers’ time and attention.

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      See also https://xn--sr8hvo.ws/ the IndieWeb webring!

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      Since we are bringing webrings back and finger has been mentioned too, there is this web-movement/subculture called smolnet. I believe it has emerged as a response to frustration of webapps, bloated websites, and all that modern www complexity jazz, you know. Smolnet encompass such tech as finger, Gopher, Gemini, perhaps others?

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      I like idea of wearings (I need to add one to my website), but for me it looks painful, that it requires so much manual steps, often involving GitHub repository or other. I believe that most of these could be automated to some degree.

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        The whole point is to remove the automation, though. Webrings should be manually vetted collections of content that one or more humans have decided is cool.

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      I run the fediring and it has 203 members as of writing. Might be a good one to link to :)

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      I added a webring function to one of my projects, but for now I own the only instance of this project, and I’m all alone on the webring :(

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      I think we just really need to bring back “personal trust” in general. We should absolutely be visiting things recommended by others that we trust rather than letting “the algorithm” decide. We should also be doing this for product reviews and other research. I also think that referral systems for sites are a great idea (shout out to lobste.rs). It provides accountability for people who join. If you are referring a ton of spammers, sorry but you are going to get your referral rights revoked (or your account banned).

      I wonder if this web-of-trust type thing could be turned into a search engine. Imagine having a search engine where results were heavily weighted by your trust network. You could subscribe to trust sources like friends or trusted public figures or even paid trust providers (maybe this is a company researching all day and recommend reputable sources). I can also imagine that you can have different “tags” to your trust. So maybe I trust Alice on cryptography and tech and general but I trust Bob more for philosophy. This could potentially even be transitive, so since I trust Alice on crypto if she trusts Carol her recommendations also influence my rankings.

      I can imagine that after adding even a few sources to your network you will quickly filter out the worst sites and high quality articles will rise to the top.

      There are of course some issues:

      1. Privacy. Your recommendations will be public. You could create an anonymous “trust source” but that source itself will likely contain a lot of personal info. Also people will prefer to use trust sources from people they know rather than anonymous sources in general.
      2. New content will be harder to find. Since your network doesn’t know about anything it will be harder to rank unknown content. This will be good in many ways like hiding blogspam but may make discovering new (to your network) content harder. This can maybe be solved by adding a weaker (or just more removed) trust source like PageRank from sites that your network trusts to sites that they link to. Maybe if this was run by one service or the rankings were public it would also be possible to find people with similar trust networks than you and use their network as a signal as well. (Although it seems that this could be an abuse network. Create a network that highly values popular sites then add in a few recommendations for blogspam. This will seem to agree with many networks and so your blogspam may get some transient rating)
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      A lot of webrings collapsed when their central hosting (e.g. webring-dot-org) disappeared. I wonder if there’s room to reconcile the new era of decentralized ActivityPub-style stuff with the very straightforward and enjoyable webring concept.

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      I always liked the old blog aggregator style which would present select posts from many other blogs as a single, readable page. Then people would quote, riff on, or disagree with other posts on completely different blogs. Not sure what happened to that.

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      I want to point out Ruben Schade bookmarks page (it’s like a blogroll).

      It’s quite wonderful. An OPML file that is also a webpage.


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