While researching over the popular business directories business.com and allbusiness.com, both recently acquired, I came across some very interesting details about Dmoz.org – the famous Open Directory Project (ODP).
Once mythical site millions of web sites were desperately relying on for Web authority, today Dmoz.org is declining in every aspect you can imagine of – from traffic, site usage, indexation level, PageRank(tm) to overall authority, trustworthiness and beyond. All traffic measurement companies are revealing similar and very unpleasant trend for the old web directory. Quantcast is reporting for slightly above 1.7 Million visitors per month. The situation at Compete is even worse – 1.5 Million where huge 33% decline is seen from the previous year on month-to-month comparison basis. Even the not-so-accurate Alexa is showing significant decline in the Dmoz.org’s popularity – once used to be close to Alexa 100, as far as I remember, today’s Alexa rank is in the 680 range. Just like to outline the negative trend the site’s yesterday rank (Dec 05, 2007) was 1143. If you take a look at the traffic’s graph from Alexa (shown below) for Dmoz.org you will see there is a constant decline in popularity over the past 6 months, at least. Just like this is not enough, even Google’s indexation level has dropped to only 211,000 pages, out of millions before, as we last checked it out. The Google PR has also dropped down from 9 to 8.
In matter of honesty we do believe the real traffic is bigger than what is shown on the sites above yet it appears the traffic today is times less than what Dmoz.org used to have in the past.
While the site is still claiming to have 4,830,584 sites, 75,151 editors and over 590,000 categories we are sort of agreeing only on the part of the number of sites and the categories. The active human editors in our belief are way below the number shown on the web site. For example, there were 7407 active editors during August 2006 (Open Directory Forum – General – Analyzing editor numbers – page 1, 13 August 2006).
I cannot help but ask why? What’s happening with Dmoz.org anyway? While there are potentially many reasons for the current situation behind Dmoz.org and we claim no accuracy here at all, I will try to summarize some of the issues below:
- The Open Directory Project’s main strengths, today, seem to be turning into its main shortcoming and its greatest weakness. Dmoz.org has always been run by volunteer human editors ensuring that listings remain high quality. However, this fact is fast becoming Dmoz.org‘s downfall most notably in the last 6 months.
- There have long been allegations that volunteer ODP editors give favorable treatment to their own websites while concomitantly thwarting the good faith efforts of their competition. Such allegations are fielded by ODP’s staff and meta editors, who have the authority to take disciplinary action against volunteer editors who are suspected of engaging in abusive editing practices.
- Dmoz.org.org has been accused a number of times by tens of thousands of small web sites and individuals in elitarism and corruption in how they were listing and delisting the web sites in the directory.
- According to the masses pointing fingers at the ODP, some editors’ heads have become too big for their body. These rumors are also backed up from some Dmoz.org editors themselves. Allegedly, some editors have become too lazy to do their jobs properly. More serious allegations joined the fray. It became clear that editors have become petty and have started declining the applications for Dmoz.org listing for no valid reason. Other claims of corruption in the ranks of the listings became widespread. This began another round of rumors that said editors have turned dictatorial in their approval to protect their own interests; that is, if an editor perceives a site to be his competition, that web site isn’t going to get approved at all, and there’ll be no explanations given for the rejection.
- Other alleged abuses have occurred at the executive level, with company management leveraging the link value from ODP to accelerate new privately funded projects. Although site policies suggest that an individual site should be submitted to only one category, as of October 2007, Topix.com, a news aggregation site operated by ODP founder Rich Skrenta, has more than 10,000 listings*.
- Early in the history of the ODP, its staff gave representatives of selected websites, such as Rolling Stone magazine, editing access at ODP in order to list many individual pages from those websites.
- ODP’s paid staff has imposed controversial policies from time to time, and volunteer editors who dissent in ways staff considers uncivil may find their editing privileges removed. One alleged example of this was chronicled at the XODP Yahoo! eGroup in May of 2000. The earliest known exposé was Life After the Open Directory Project, later appearing as a June 1, 2000, guest column written for Traffick.com, by David F. Prenatt, Jr. (former ODP editor “netesq”) after losing his ODP editing privileges. Another example was the volunteer editor known by the alias The Cunctator, who was banned from the ODP soon after submitting an article to Slashdot on October 24, 2000, which criticized changes in ODP’s copyright policies.
- We have been witnessing many corporate, brand and social battles and wars on Dmoz.org over the past years, similarly to what is today happening with Wikipedia.
- As we said above the number of active editors is getting lesser and lesser over the years while the backlog of web sites in the queue waiting to get listed is increasing. There were websites that had to wait years before they got listed. When Dmoz.org was first established listing could take a matter of a few weeks. Over time as Dmoz.org popularity grew so did listing times.
- It became known that some categories inside Dmoz.org did not even have any editors. In other categories editors became inactive and the backlog of submissions just continued to mount up.
- Many Dmoz.org editors are believed to have moved to Wikipedia through out the past 2 years.
- Dmoz.org began taking more flak when people started saying that the reason Dmoz.org is so lacking in editors – which leads to some categories not having editors at all for a great length of time – is the fact that the powers at Dmoz.org are reluctant to admit new editors to their ranks.
- Uninhibited discussion of ODP’s purported shortcomings has become more common on mainstream Webmaster discussion forums.
- On October 20, 2006, the ODP’s main server suffered a catastrophic system failure that prevented editors from working on the directory until December 18, 2006. During that period, an older structure of the directory was visible to the public.
- Many site submissions were found to be in conflicts with the financial interests of the category editors.
- Underlying some controversy surrounding ODP is its ownership and management. Many of the original GnuHoo volunteers felt that they had been deceived into joining a commercial enterprise. As ODP’s content became widely used by most major search engines and web directories, the issue of ODP’s ownership, management and governance became of greater importance to the public interests.
- Dmoz.org listings are also a powerful force in the world of expired domain traffic. Due to the popularity of the Open Directory and its resulting impact on search engine rankings, domains with lapsed registration that are listed on ODP have attracted domain hijacking, an issue that has been addressed (at least tried) by regularly removing expired domains from the directory.
- Competition. Dmoz.org clearly has missed the web 2.0 evolution and was left behind by better organized (semantic approach), bigger in size and more effective (contextual links) modern directories, an example of which is LinkedWords with its more than 38 Million English categories, sub-categories, phrases and words to get listed with. Basically LinkedWords is large-scale contextual platform which has similarity with Dmoz.org in its huge ontology directory structure but is entirely built up upon the spirit of web 2.0 with greater flexibility (adding pages, categories, sub-categories in real time), functionality (automated creation of contextual listings, yet there is zero spam) and technology (maximizes contextual linking among web sites, not just lists them). Having the web sites listed on its platform contributing, on daily basis, to the popularity of LW with in-text contextual links spreading around the Web is yet another advantage. This way sites like LinkedWords are not only helping more the web sites involved by connecting them together on a contextual basis but they are also helping the algorithmic robots find, classify and organize the information in context (following the in-context linked words) and not last the common users are also given with a chance to find the information in-context and on demand while reading around the web by clicking on the same in-text linked words.
- Google has begun to disassociate itself from the Open Directory Project. Nothing can be more symbolic than Google’s relegation of the directory from a prominent position in Google’s site to a position reserved for ordinary ‘worth checking but not really that important’ type of site, regardless of the high page ranks of most of the categories at Dmoz.org.
- Since the clamor of discontent has reached such a high degree and Dmoz.org’s staunchest ally – Google, has begun to keep its distance, Dmoz.org is like a decaying dinosaur that other animals are steering clear of it to avoid the vultures that are expected to feast on the beast when it dies. The death toll has been sounded for Dmoz.org.
While many of the points listed above may be arguable in one way or another – depending on points of view and interests – since they are gathered from the public Web during our research, they reveal the true picture behind Dmoz.org and it is easily to understand why the decline is so huge in the Dmoz.org’s village.
All of the above raises the reasonable question, how can Dmoz.org remain useful when people no longer trust its human editors?
Money makes the world go round they say. In 2007 it is also true that money makes the World Wide Web go round. In a world where online businesses can easily sell for a billion dollars the original lure of Dmoz.org for both webmasters and editors is waning. Today, Dmoz.org is still being used when web masters want their web sites listed. However, people no longer attribute much importance to it.
That pretty much sums up ours and a million other people’s sentiments about the current status and usefulness of this Open Directory Project. Sweeping changes and general reform, from political to technological, are required for the ODP to change from a Web 1.0 decaying dinosaur into a modern and effective directory with web 2.0 functionality.
For the people who do not know what Dmoz.org is, below we will include some basic information and historic facts about the ODP project. No, not everybody knows about Dmoz.org. In our basic estimate there are probably more than 400 million online users today that have no idea what the ODP project is.
The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors.
The Open Directory Project (ODP), also known as Dmoz.org (from directory.mozilla.org, its original domain name), is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links owned by Netscape that is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors.
ODP uses a hierarchical ontology scheme for organizing site listings. Listings on a similar topic are grouped into categories, which can then include smaller categories.
ODP was founded as Gnuhoo by Rich Skrenta and Bob Truel in 1998. At the time, Skrenta and Truel were working as engineers for Sun Microsystems. Chris Tolles, who worked at Sun Microsystems as the head of marketing for network security products, also signed on in 1998 as a co-founder of Gnuhoo along with co-founders Bryn Dole and Jeremy Wenokur. Skrenta was already well known for his role in developing TASS, an ancestor of tin, the popular threaded Usenet newsreader for Unix systems. Coincidentally, the original category structure of the Gnuhoo directory was based loosely on the structure of Usenet newsgroups then in existence.
The Gnuhoo directory went live on June 5, 1998. After a Slashdot article suggested that Gnuhoo had nothing in common with the spirit of free software, for which the GNU project was known, Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation objected to the usage of Gnu. So Gnuhoo was changed to NewHoo. Yahoo then objected to the usage of “Hoo” in the name, prompting them to switch the name again. ZURL was the likely choice. However, before the switch to ZURL, NewHoo was acquired by Netscape Communications Corporation in October of 1998 and became the Open Directory Project. Netscape released the ODP data under the Open Directory License. Netscape was acquired by AOL shortly thereafter, and ODP was one of the assets included in the acquisition. AOL later merged with Time-Warner.
By the time Netscape assumed stewardship, the Open Directory Project had about 100,000 URLs indexed with contributions from about 4500 editors. On October 5, 1999, the number of URLs indexed by ODP reached one million. According to an unofficial estimate, the number of URLs in the Open Directory surpassed the number of URLs in the Yahoo! Directory in April 2000 with about 1.6 million URLs. ODP achieved the milestones of indexing two million URLs on August 14, 2000, three million listings on November 18, 2001 and four million on December 3, 2003.
I find similarities between Dmoz.org and Wikipedia.org. So, is it possible the same to happen with Wikipedia at future?
[ http://www.Dmoz.org ]
[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Directory_Project ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/Dmoz.org ]
[ http://siteanalytics.compete.com/Dmoz.org/?metric=uv ]
[ http://alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details/Dmoz.org ]
[ http://www.skrenta.com/2006/12/Dmoz.org_had_9_lives_used_up_yet.html ]
[ http://www.newswriter.us/ShowAdminArticle-17.htm ]
* [ http://search.Dmoz.org/cgi-bin/search?search=topix (accessed on 18th October 2007)]
[ http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/xodp/messages/1 (XODP Yahoo! Group Message Archive)]
[ http://www.traffick.com/story/06-2000-xodp.asp (David F. Prenatt, Jr., Life After the Open Directory Project, Traffick.com (June 1, 2000))]
[ http://slashdot.org/articles/00/10/24/1252232.shtml (CmdrTaco, Dmoz.org (aka AOL) Changing Guidelines In Sketchy Way, Slashdot (October 24, 2000)]