Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Autumn 1998

Web Rings

by Brett Humphreys

Web rings are seen by their advocates as one of the main rivals to search engines as a means of locating information about a particular subject on the Web. The concept is simple: sets of websites are daisy-chained into “rings”, each having a specific theme. Links between sites are made via a central server, so that new sites can easily be inserted into a ring, and the ring is not broken if individual sites disappear or fail to work properly. The server can also provide a directory and a search mechanism based on the name and description provided for each ring.

The original and by far the largest web ring system, known simply as WebRing, was created in June 1995 by Sage Weil and Troy Griffith and launched in March 1996. By April 1998 it claimed to support nearly 50,000 rings linking over half a million sites, and it continues to grow rapidly. One reason for the phenomenal success of WebRing is that the administration is decentralised – anyone with sufficient time and expertise can set up and maintain a ring, and anyone with a website can join a ring, normally subject to the agreement of the ring’s owner.

WebRing has far too many lesbian and gay rings to mention individually here – the directory category Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual alone lists around 80, and a search on appropriate keywords reveals several hundred more. It’s interesting to note that, according to the 8-week rolling statistics provided by the WebRing server, the two most popular rings in this category (Bear Ring and QueerRing) record more ‘hits’ between them than all of the 20 most popular rings in the Religion category combined.

Religion may not be the favourite topic among users of web rings, but humanist rings as such are not easy to find at all. There are, however, a number of rings based on atheism and other related themes of interest, which are easily located via a keyword search from the WebRing home page.

The Ring of Truth, linking around 230 sites, is one of the larger such rings. Described as a “ring of pages around the web that seek to open people’s eyes to the world they are faced with instead of cowering in fear behind religious dogma and superstition”, it is (according to the ring’s home page) “owned by satan himself” – none other than Sage Weil, founder of WebRing.

The Freethought Ring is another sizable ring, linking around 270 sites. It is maintained by Internet Infidels, whose site is itself one of the major resources for atheists on the Web.

Web rings have, at least to date, typically tended to consist mainly of personal rather than commercial or organisational sites. They are unlikely to replace search engines, but still they are good for casual surfing, and have a valuable role to play in enabling like-minded people to make themselves and their views known to each other and the world. Is anyone interested in forming a Gay and Lesbian Humanist ring?

Anyone wanting to judge for themself the standard of this Summer’s parliamentary debates on the age of consent can find the full text as part of the daily reports of Hansard available on the Web (Commons from December 1996, Lords from June 1996). No-one reading the age-of-consent debates carefully (Commons: 22 June 1998, cols. 754-811; Lords: 22 July 1998, cols. 936-975) can fail to notice the regularity with which religious credentials are cited by those speakers who either oppose reform outright or only tepidly support it in this particular case while at the same time speaking out against lesbian and gay rights in general – especially among our unelected legislators.

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Created : Sunday, 1999-01-31 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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