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.