Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an alternative, although complementary, system for the evaluation of the scholarly activities of academic organizations, scholars and researchers, based on web indicators, in order to speed up the change of paradigm in scholarly communication towards a new fully electronic twenty-first century model. Design/methodology/approach – In order to achieve these goals, a new set of web indicators has been introduced, obtained mainly from data gathered from search engines, the new mediators of scholarly communication. Findings – It was found that three large groups of indicators are feasible to obtain and relevant for evaluation purposes: activity (web publication); impact (visibility) and usage (visits and visitors). As a proof of concept, a Ranking Web of Universities has been built with Webometrics data. There are two relevant findings: ranking results are similar to those obtained by other bibliometric-based rankings; and there is a concerning digital divide between North American and European universities, which appear in lower positions when compared with their USA and Canada counterparts. Research limitations/implications – Cybermetrics is still an emerging discipline, so new developments should be expected when more empirical data become available. Practical implications – The proposed approach suggests the publication of truly electronic journals, rather than digital versions of printed articles. Additional materials, such as raw data and multimedia files, should be included along with other relevant information arising from more informal activities. These repositories should be Open Access, available as part of the public web, indexed by the main commercial search engines. It is expected that these actions could generate larger web-based audiences, reduce the costs of publication and access and allow third parties to take advantage of the knowledge generated, without sacrificing peer review, which should be extended (pre- and post-) and expanded (closed and open). Originality/value – A full taxonomy of web indicators is introduced for describing and evaluating research activities, academic organizations and individual scholars and scientists. Previous attempts for building such classification were incomplete and did not take into account feasibility and efficiency.