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Mar 062018

Tolkien Toplists & Webrings

Webrings and Topsites were a web trend in the late 1990’s and early 200o’s to help promote websites, and 25 Hobbits was the go-to portal to promote your Tolkien website!

The early days of the World Wide Web… (remember when it was still called that?)

Long before the age of the search engine came into it’s own, when Google was just a twinkle in the eye of a few young entrepreneurs… there were the Web Topsites and Fan Webrings. Ah… those were the days!

After creating the first pages of Mordor, I wanted people to come and see what I had created and back then there were only a few ways to do so. Webrings and Topsites!

25 Hobbits was the go-to portal to promote your Tolkien website back in the late 1990s and if you wanted to send traffic to your site, then you had a banner on 25 Hobbits!

What is 25 Hobbits? What is a Toplist? In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Google’s page ranking system was still just a small operation running out of a friend’s garage, Search Engines technology was still in it’s infancy. Search engines of the day, such as WebCrawler, Magellan, Excite, Infoseek, Inktomi, Northern Light, AltaVista and Yahoo were all a bit clunky! In reality, they didn’t work very well and as the World Wide Web grew, searches become clogged with useless information.

So what does all this have to do with Tolkien websites? Well, one of the best ways to find content you were interested in was to look for a Toplist or Webring. A toplist was a ranking of websites, focused on a certain subject. If you had a website that fit the category, you would place a link on your site and ask people to vote for your site by clicking on the link to the Topsite, this would move you up the ranking list and make your site more visible to the masses. It was a symbiotic relationship that drove traffic to your site and to the Toplist site.

The more hits you got, the more traffic was driven to your website  and the higher your ranking! It was a great way for new websites to get noticed and it was really how Mordor ~ The Land of Shadow.com was first introduced to a large number of Tolkien fans. When the movies were announced, interest in all things Lord of the Rings and Tolkien went through the roof and 25 Hobbit was the place to go to find all the best Tolkien websites.

For several years, Mordor was ranked in the top ten and was often in the number one spot.

Here are several of Mordor’s early banners used on 25 Hobbits and later Tolkien World and Tolkien Top 100!





As the name implies it listed the Top 25 sites, which gives you an idea how few Tolkien websites there were back in the late 90s. However, with the announcement of the films and their eventual release, the number of Tolkien sites exploded from a few score to upwards of four or five hundred at the height of The Lord of the Rings trilogy’s success. Before long additional Tolkien and Lord of the Rings Topsites sprouted up on the web, but 25 Hobbits still ruled!

25 Hobbits eventually changed it’s name to Tolkien World as it grew in size and influence. Alas like all things, Topsites have gone the way of the dinosaur, but you can go HERE to see Tolkien 100, which still exists today. Like all trends and fads in our fast moving world, the Toplist had it’s moment in the sun, but has now faded away, as search engines matured and became the most direct route to finding what you want on the web.

Here are some of the banners for the Tolkien themed Topsites…





Webrings were another way to drive people to your website. A webring contained a list of websites that all contained a similar theme. A single moderator or Ringmaster was in charge of approving and adding each website to a webring. Sites participating in a webring would then place code for the ring’s navigation box at the bottom of their site, which would bring visitors to whichever site was next or previous in the list (depending on which option they selected). If a visitor was on the last site in the list and clicked next, the list would loop back and load the first website in the list, in essence forming a ring of websites.

Here is The Lord of the Rings webring below. For a full history of webrings, how they worked and why they fell out of favor go HERE to Hover for a thorough explanation.

Through the use of these very early ways to drive traffic to a website, Mordor was able to stand out among the growing crowd of Tolkien themed websites. We carved a unique niche in the digital online world of Middle-earth.

However, many of these site would disappear over the coarse of the decade following the release of The Return of the King. Somehow Mordor hung in there through the lean years and we figured out a way to remain innovative and relevant when so many others folded up their tents and went home.  However, by the time The Hobbit trilogy was announced in 2010, the landscape of the Web had changed drastically, being taken over by Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The inventive and entrepreneurial spirit of those early web creators, would not be repeated the second time around.

Now we face a new future with the coming of the Amazon Lord of the Rings TV series. Will The Land of Shadow.com survive into its third decade? Only time will tell!

 March 6, 2018  Posted by at 12:50 pm

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