This collection has grown from some 20 sites on a single sheet of A4 paper back in 1995 to over 1000 sites at the time of writing (September 2006), mirroring the exponential expansion of the Internet and WWW since 1995. Back in those days, we in the CTI Centre for Modern Languages were debating whether or not it was worth having a website at all as the number of sites on the WWW was so small, and we never foresaw that the WWW would mushroom in such spectacular and exponential fashion. Hence, the list had no planned structure and was initially just a single web page.
Since that time, the growth of the list has been ad hoc, with categories added and amended continuously as the need arose in order to make it more manageable, consistent, and easier to use by its target audience. The structure of the collection has essentially evolved, rather than having been planned. It may not be the optimum structure for this type of collection, and were we to start anew in these days when there are hundreds of millions of websites we would certainly do things very differently (the collection would be implemented as a database, for a start), but that's how it's grown up.
From 1995 until late 2001, the sole maintainer of the list was myself, Fred Riley. I'm an e-learning developer, Learning Technologist and language learner, and my main expertise is in programming, e-learning development, web design, and web applications development. My experience in languages is as a learner, mainly of Italian which I've been studying since 1993, but also of Scots Gaelic which I've been studying since 2004, and as a developer of computer-aided language learning (CALL) software in collaboration with language teachers.
In the winter of 2001, Janet Bartle became joint maintainer of the collection. Janet has a Bachelors degree in French and Spanish and a Masters degree in Applied Language and New Technologies gained at the University of Hull. She has worked as a researcher evaluating distance education via videoconferencing and taught EFL in France and Spain, French in the UK and also taught on the same MA in Applied Language and New Technologies at Hull.
At the end of 2002 Janet left the university, and I was made redundant and, regrettably, no longer have a 'day job' in the field of languages, although I do keep a connection alive by maintaining and developing the EUROCALL website. This list is now solely maintained by myself on a private hosting account, and no longer has any connection with Hull university.
The genesis of this collection was the CTI Centre for Modern Languages (CTICML) based in the University of Hull Language Institute, which had such a strong reputation in CALL circles that 'Hull' and 'CALL' were practically synonymous. Although political machinations and senior management ambitions put an abrupt end to a decade's work of CTICML, the name of this collection is designed to remind the CALL world of how important Hull was to it during the formative 90s. I'm also perversely fond of Hull the city :)
CALL stands for Computer-Assisted Language Learning, a term which is fairly self-explanatory though the Wikipedia entry does go into it in some detail for more academic types. Essentially it's e-learning as applied to languages, and is a wide field of research and has spawned a number of academic organisations and journals. It's been in use since the early 1990s, when it referred to disk-based software, although since then it's been transformed with the exponential growth of the WWW.
I do not, and will never, accept any form of advertising on this site. Not only do I not need the pathetic amounts of money such ads bring in, but carrying advertising would place reasonable doubts in the mind of site users as to my independence and willingness to evaluate sites as honestly as I can. Ads also slow page loading considerably and irritate users.
The personal interests, experience, and expertise of the list maintainers, both past and present, not to mention available time, means that the collection is necessarily biassed and highly unrepresentative of the enormous range of world languages. Because I speak and study Italian, French, Spanish and Scottish Gaelic, there is a definite over-preponderance of sites in those categories. The collection is also very Eurocentric.
The collection is not, and never has been, intended to be at all representative of world languages, their geographical spread, and the number of their speakers. For example, it contains a far longer listing of sites for Gaelic languages, spoken by perhaps 200,000 people scattered across the fringes of Europe, than it does of Oriental languages, spoken by hundreds of millions of people throughout Asia. This is not any sort of snub to speakers of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc, but simply a direct reflection of the personal interests and expertise of myself and Janet.
Neither do I take any political or moral stance on the status of languages, or on the vexed and often highly contentious question of whether a tongue is a language or a dialect. I tend to the common view that a dialect is a language without an army, but I respect linguists who discern important technical linguistic factors which differentiate languages and dialects.
Although the collection is inevitably skewed and biassed, I do make efforts to seek out sites for non-Romance and non-European languages. I actively welcome submissions from users, especially for those categories in the collection which are particularly 'thin'.
I do not rate sites, as this would be invidious, inaccurate, and highly inappropriate. Sites that I've been especially impressed with have "recommended" appended to their descriptions, but that's it.
For many years now, this collection has cried out to be put into a database and made available as a dynamic site, but I've simply not had the time to dedicate to coding a repository from scratch to do so. I have looked at existing repository software (for instance, the Scout Project's CWIS) but haven't found anything appropriate in the stacks of heavyweight institutional-grade offerings. I am looking to develop a repository whilst I'm freelance, but of course paid work has to take precedence over unpaid when you have to sing for your supper. Watch the newsfeed, though...