Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The demise of DMOZ

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Screenshot of DMOZ, The Open Directory Project

Today is the day that the Open Directory Project (aka DMOZ) closes. Founded in 1998, the ODP has been around for the best part of two decades, as a human-edited directory of web sites.

The ODP was set up to be an open alternative to Yahoo’s proprietary directory of web sites. Anyone could sign up to be an editor, and web sites could use the ODP’s data under license on their own site. It was acquired by Netscape early in its life, and following Netscape’s acquisition by AOL, it has been part of the AOL family to date.

If you were a regular reader of this blog back in the early days, you may remember that I used to be one of the 90,000 volunteer editors of the ODP. I started early on in around 1999, and by 2003 I was an ‘editall+catmv’, which meant that I could edit any part of the directory (excluding the sandboxed Kids and Teens category), and could move categories that were in the wrong place. Had I stuck around for longer, I may have made it to the higher rank of ‘meta’ editor, who took on responsibilities for managing other users.

I started to lose interest in around 2004, and haven’t really used or edited the ODP since. My account went inactive around the same time and I’ve not felt the need to re-activate it. I’m guessing the same goes for many of the other editors that I worked alongside at the time.

I’m still in touch with some of the people that were editors at the time, and went to a couple of UK meetups. It was a friendly group of internet-savvy people who loved to organise things and try to make the web better. But trying to build a directory to map the whole internet is a big ask of volunteer humans, and search engines like Google are much better now than they used to be. The ODP made sense when the web was small, but I can’t help but feel that its time has passed. It’s a shame to see it go, but at the same time, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did.

2 Comments

  1. It’s so great to reminisce about the internet as it once was. It’s a totally different place now, for better or worse (but probably for worse!). Amazing to hear how there were human-organised directories back in the day – what an amazing thing to be able to say you were part of that. Even for a younger person like me (I’m 20), I’m recognising the layout of the screenshot about as something that has advanced in so many ways, yet as an image that still resonates with me regarding those times we didn’t have a computer at home, and school was the only place I could access the internet for an hour a week!

  2. A succinct and fitting eulogy, Neil. It was a wonderful place, back in the day. International and often long-lasting friendships were made, and we felt like we were really making the internet an easier and more reliable place to search. I remember those days with great affection, but I think its relevance (and therefore the editorial “family”) started to die about 2006, and never recovered. So glad I was there to enjoy its heyday, and I have remained friends with some editors ever since.

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