Note: The links contained in this article have not be verified, though I'm sure some of the sites are still active after 10 years.
The Worldwide Web and the Internet have gotten a lot of media attention in the last year or two. Some 20 million homes in the U.S. have Internet access in addition to millions around the world. In this growing electronic community there is room for every kind of interest and pursuit. Scots and Scottish-Americans have been quite active on the Web, creating a rich presence.
The Web is a way for text and pictures on your computer (or, more accurately your Internet Service Provider’s computers) to be seen by anyone who knows your address or URL (universal resource locator). Sound and animation can also be tied to a page, and there is an emerging method for having 3D spaces that visitors can move around in called VRML (virtual reality modeling language).
The heart of the Scottish-American community is the clan societies and heritage associations. There are over one hundred separate Web pages for these groups in addition to three multiple clan sites. Most of these pages are pretty simple, kind of like an online brochure. Some of the more active groups put extensive information on their sites, including detailed genealogical data, rich clan histories, and news about current society activities. As the Web continues to reach more families, we expect features like chat areas and genealogical databases to become common features of the more supported sites.
Some Highland games and Celtic festivals have also placed information about their events on Web pages. The best have rich content, results from previous years and up-to-date facts about their next event. Others, sadly, were put up in good faith, but have not been updated recently and contain out of date information at best.
For those looking to travel, there are some interesting travel oriented Web sites and many parts of Scotland have created their own promotional sites. Some examples of these are the Aberdeenshire Home Page, Boating in Scotland, Edinburgh - Scotland’s Capital City, and Regionlink Scotland. You can also find extensive index sites with links to all manner of travel-related information and contact sites.
Probably the most interesting and content-rich sites are those created by enthusiasts about Scottish-American culture. Some of the most notable are
“Bagpipes Go To The Movies,” a site cataloguing 174 instances of bagpipes and bagpipe music in TV and film,
“Ceolas,” an old but comprehensive site about Celtic music and culture,
“Gathering of the Clans,” a site working to have information available about all clans, and
“Historical Braveheart,” a site devoted to the true history of William Wallace.
The most popular areas of interaction on the Internet are “newsgroups.” These are like mailing lists where your message is seen by everyone else on the list and virtual discussions can be held on any topic. There are over 15,000 newsgroups currently in existence, but the five that attract the Scottish-American traffic are
soc.culture.scottish (Scottish culture),
soc.culture.celtic (Celtic culture),
rec.music.celtic (Celtic Music),
rec.music-makers.bagpipe (Bagpipe Players), and
alt.scottish.clans (Scottish Clans).
There are also a few other “mailing lists,” of which the Bagpipe Mailing List is quite popular.
One of the best traditions of these newsgroups is the creation of a FAQ, or Frequently Asked Questions document. Usually, the same questions get repeated many times by people who are new to the newsgroup. Rather than repeat lengthy and sometimes inflammatory discussions each time a subject comes up, the results of previous discussions are captured in the FAQ and it is periodically posted on the newsgroup or available at a Website.
The hot topics on the newsgroups are often the latest Scottish movie (like Braveheart or Rob Roy), queries as to the origins of one surname or another, historical questions, announcements of new or updated Websites, and discussions about Scottish and Scottish-American culture.
So far, the Web and the Internet have been used mostly as an informal way to exchange information. It is an effective way to learn about groups and companies that you may wish to contact in a more traditional way. But many of its promises have not yet been fulfilled, like access to rich databases from universities, the government, and private firms. The problem of finding the time and money to convert existing information to the Web format is the primary obstacle, although serious concerns about copyright infringement and loss of revenue keep much of the most interesting stuff off the Web.
The greatest threat to the Web and the Internet is entropy. No method of commerce has been established well enough to make your average Web “surfer” eager to spend money. And without revenue, only the most devoted activists and enthusiasts will be able to invest the time and money to update and expand their Web pages in the months and years ahead. But we predict that the Web will continue and expand. A secure form of online payments will probably be ubiquitous within the next year or so. Once business is firmly entrenched on the Web, there may not be as much purely free information, but access to rich sites for very little money will make the Web an important resource.
U.S. Scots has been pleased to be a part of the Internet Scottish-American community for several years, including three years as our own growing and expanding web site, U.S. SCOTS ONLINE. If you are just starting on the Web, we recommend that you visit our site for access to articles, games information and hundreds of links to the Web pages mentioned here. Our Web address is http://www.usscots.com