Does Dmoz Still Have a Place in Search?

    May 20, 2009
    Chris Crum, also known as the Open Directory Project, is widely considered to be the mother of all directories. Well, that was the case at one time, anyway. Dmoz has dropped significantly in popularity over the years, and is the subject of much criticism by webmasters looking for inclusion. What do you think about Dmoz these days? Is it still valuable? Tell us what you think.

WebProNews publisher and iEntry CEO Rich Ord talked to Dmoz founder Rich Skrenta shortly after its 1998 launch. "Dmoz was originally launched as Gnuhoo which it then quickly changed to NewHoo. It was a directory that was for the people and by the people when it came out, so it was considered to be the answer to Yahoo’s more closed directory," says Ord.

Now many users are taking issue with that "for the people" part, and the numbers reflect it. Looking at Compete data, Dmoz has declined sharply in unique visitors, visits, and page views over the last six or seven years. According to Compete, Dmoz hasn’t had 3 million unique visitors in a month since March 2003, at which point it had over 15 million page views and over 3 and a half million visits. In April of 2009, the numbers read: over a million unique visitors, 10 million page views, and under 2 million visits.

Just over the past year, unique visitors and visits have seen significant decline. Look at the graphs:

Unique visitors

Unique Visitors



Looking for Respect

Dmoz is looking for a little "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" as a recent post on the Dmoz Blog puts it. Editor glippitt talks about how Dmoz is still a valuable search tool. "Everybody loves Google, everybody loves Wikipedia – so why doesn’t everybody love Dmoz? Many people might be quick to tear this question apart, but the post raises some thought-provoking points.

Dmoz isn’t about replacing Google or Wikipedia. But this editor claims it has its place alongside them. "There’s all sorts of relevant information to be found on the web, and the broader the topic the more useful Dmoz is," says glippitt. "Use it as one of your search vehicles and you may be surprised how much more efficient and productive your searches become. Just don’t expect it to be the perfect combination…there’s no such thing as a silver bullet in search – not even Google."

But the biggest knock against Dmoz hasn’t really been that it’s not a potentially great resource. The users who bash it typically claim that Dmoz doesn’t give those who submit sites enough respect. "Your site is a black hole. Fix that, and everyone will love Dmoz," says Jim Francis, commenting on the post.

Another knock is that the directory is frequently gamed, and authoritative sites are left out while sites with less than stellar content are there instead. Basically, it’s getting abused in Digg-like fashion. But Dmoz still (at least on the surface) says it puts community first.

Grant Belaire "I care about the community and the experience we provide because I think that authoritative, subject matter experts CAN provide an experience on par and in certain circumstances far superior to the algorithmic search," says Grant Belaire, Director – Audience Growth.  "And Dmoz is by far the single best example of that on this planet…or any other that I am aware of."

Google and Dmoz

There have been a lot of questions in the past as to just how Google valued Dmoz links (and whether or not they were de-valuing them). Jean Manco, a UK building historian, and a Dmoz editor since 1999 has a very interesting look at the relationship between Google and Dmoz. In the rather lengthy piece (last updated just a few months ago), she says:

In its endless battle against spam, Google needs every weapon it can lay hands on. Recently Google patented a method of including an element of editorial opinion in its algorithm. Dmoz was specifically mentioned.

Yet no one knows better than Google that Dmoz only lists a fraction of the Web. So Google is not about to rely on Dmoz alone for any crucial element of its algorithm. That is a safe bet.

The point is, marketers don’t appear to be looking for Dmoz links at the rate they once were. Many will tell you it’s quite hard to get one anyway. This could be another contributing factor to the decline in interest for Dmoz. Dmoz has been working on a Dmoz 2.0 for sometime, but staff has not responded to my requests for comments about this.

Do you think Dmoz still has a place in search? Share your thoughts.