Back in 1996 I started fiddling with websites about computer games. You can find a small remnant at Computer Game Player which has a few websites of those I was building and promoting at the time. Anyways, here's a rundown of how all sorts of linking got started in the early beginning History about link exchangesIn mid and late nineties, doing link exchanges was how the net worked. It was how you could find new interesting websites on the internet. Content was scarce and website surfers had limited access to search tools like todays with one exception being AltaVista. However, primarily, webmasters and surfers connected through links.Webrings, banners and themed linksMost websites would mostly link to either: 1) Sites of huge interest and importance, e.g. website portals. 2) Sites with the same topic and theme. Related websites were often organized in groups of banner exchanges and webring networks. All quality websites did heavily in button exchanges and reciprocal text link exchanges. With gaming websites, button (88x31 or 90x30 pixels) were extremely popular. And unlike today, most websites actively worked on maintaining a links page on their site. It was also common to actively search for related websites and engage in text, button and banner link exchanges.Times changes for reciprocal linksWhen search engines such as Google began ranking sites on backlink, things changed. Webmasters started to seek all kinds of link exchanges, even low quality free for all links, also referred to as link farm pages. Search engines responded with counter measures to penalize this and devaluing such sites and links.Link exchanges and bad neighborhoodsToday, if you contemplate reciprocal links, you have to take special care. Avoid having so many link exchanges it reminds of a link farm. Limit yourselv to exchange links with only related theme and topic websites. At any price, avoid bad neighborhood websites, i.e. websites with poor content that links to many other sites and pages.