DMOZ - Open Directory Project

DMOZ - Open Directory Project screenshot
DMOZ - Open Directory Project. Screen capture

DMOZ, which used to be known as the Open Directory Project is a volunteer-edited database of websites filed by category. Think of it sort of like Wikipedia only with lists of websites instead of crowdsourced "facts." 

DMOZ stands for "Directory Mozilla." Mozilla was an early name for the Netscape Navigator Web browser. DMOZ was owned by Netscape Communications (now AOL), but the information and database are freely available to other companies.

DMOZ is essentially a relic of an old method of cataloging websites. Yahoo! started out using a similar system of hand-categorizing websites, much in the same way libraries categorized books. Each site was evaluated for content (something librarians call "aboutness") and assigned to the category or categories that best matched.

For example, one could crawl from the home page of DMOZ to Kids and Teens and find 34,761 links. From there, you could then look at Arts (1068 links) and then to Crafts (99 links) and then, finally, to Balloons (6 links.)  At this point, you'd see links to six websites with brief descriptions of what you would find at each site. If that didn't turn out to be what you needed, you could then backtrack by using the breadcrumbs at the top of the page. The top of the page shows your path: ​Kids and Teens: Arts: Crafts: Balloons (6). 

You could also just skip all this category browsing and search for a few keywords, but you're only going to find search results for items that are in the DMOZ catalog. If it's never been entered into DMOZ, it might as well not exist. Since the volunteer process for DMOZ cataloging takes time, the information is likely not fresh and is certainly not complete 

That is as good of an illustration why this is an old method of finding websites. There are a ton of websites out there, and it would wear the fingers off of volunteer efforts to catalog them all. Google, Bing, and the modern Yahoo! search engine just skips this whole cataloging thing and automatically inventory the Web for new websites. Relevance is determined by computer algorithm rather than human eyeballs. 

That isn't to say that the DMOZ approach is useless. Plenty of cataloging systems exist. Craigslist, for example, organizes items by category. It works well when you want a list of human-curated sites that contain information that is more evergreen. Crafts involving balloons, for example. Since DMOZ sites are reviewed by humans, they are usually of better quality than a random search of the Web. However, since it is also an aging website, it may not make much of a difference. 

Google Directory

Google Directory used to be a way to search through DMOZ and functioned as competition for Yahoo! and similar directory services when the Internet hadn't quite made the transition to automated search engines. Google Directory stuck around for far longer than was probably necessary and closed up shop in 2011.