webring is a collection of websites linked together in a circular structure, and usually organized around a specific theme, often educational or social. They were popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, particularly among amateur websites.

Webrings are seen by some as a relic of the early web of the 1990s. When the primary site that managed web rings, webring.org was acquired by Yahoo, ‘ring masters’ lost access to their webrings and the web ring hubs were replaced by a Yahoo page. By the time Yahoo stopped controlling webring.org in 2001, search engines had become good enough that web rings were no longer as useful. The webring.org site was still active in the mid-2010s.

To be a part of the webring, each site has a common navigation bar; it contains links to the previous and next site. By selecting next (or previous) repeatedly, the user will eventually reach the site they started at. The select-through route around the ring is usually supplemented by a central site with links to all member sites. The advantage of a webring is that if the user is interested in the topic on one website, they can quickly connect to another website on the same topic. Webrings usually have a moderator who decides which pages to include.

Sites usually join a webring in order to receive traffic from related sites. When used to improve search engine rankings, webrings can be considered a search engine optimization technique.

The Webring concept is believed to have originated with Denis Howe’s EUROPa (Expanding Unidirectional Ring Of Pages) at Imperial College, London in 1994. Howe was also the founder of the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (FOLDOC), an online, searchable, encyclopedic dictionary of computing subjects. Webrings were expanded upon by developer Giraldo Hierro, who conceptualized a central CGI (Common Gateway Interface) script to enhance functionality. Software engineer Sage Weil developed a similar script that gained popularity, pushing Weil in 1995 to form a company called WebRing. In 1997, Weil sold WebRing to Starseed, Inc.

In 1998, Starseed was acquired by GeoCities (another relic of the 90’s web, comprised of ‘neighborhoods’ of web sites), who made no major changes to the system. Just a few months later, in early 1999, Yahoo! bought GeoCities, and eighteen months after the acquisition, on September 5, 2000, Yahoo! unveiled a fully overhauled WebRing, known as Yahoo! WebRing. Although Yahoo!’s implementation was meant to streamline the way the rings were managed and provide a more consistent interface for all rings, many of these changes were unpopular with ringmasters accustomed to the older system which gave them more flexibility.

In 2001, Yahoo! pulled their support of WebRing, leaving it in the hands of one technician from the original company, Timothy Killeen. He unveiled a WebRing free of Yahoo! influence several months later. In the years since this change, many of the features which had been stripped by Yahoo!, particularly customization options, were reimplemented into the WebRing system.

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