DMOZ CLOSES In Bow To Machine Powered Search Engines. DMOZ — The Open Directory Project that uses human editors to organize websites — is CLOSED. It marks the end of a time when humans, rather than machines, tried to organize the web. The move comes three days later than originally planned. It marks the end of an era of humans trying to catalog the entire web.
DMOZ was a project designed to organize the web using volunteer human editors and born during a time when a rival to the dominant Yahoo Directory was seen as needed. Nearly 19 years later, neither directory lives, with machine-powered search engines having made them archaic. Unlike with the Yahoo Directory, the DMOZ site continues to operate, at least with a home page that says it is closed. It also links to a mirror copy of the last version of DMOZ before it closed.
DMOZ was born in June 1998 as “GnuHoo,” then quickly changed to “NewHoo,” a rival to the Yahoo Directory at the time. Yahoo had faced criticism as being too powerful and too difficult for sites to be listed in.
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. It was acquired by Netscape in November 1998 and renamed the Netscape Open Directory.
Also born that year was Google, which was the start of the end of human curation of websites. Google bought both the power of being able to search every page on the web with the relevancy that was a hallmark of human-powered directories.
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.
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.
Yahoo eventually shifted to preferring machine-generated results over human power, pushing its directory further and further behind-the-scenes until its closure was announced in September 2014. The actual closure came in December 2014, with the old site these days entirely unresponsive.
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.
DMOZ continued on, although for marketers and searchers, it had also long been mostly forgotten as a resource. About the only surprise in today’s news is that it took so long.
DMOZ will live on in one unique way — the NOODP meta tag.
This was a way for publishers to tell Google and other search engines not to describe their pages using Open Directory descriptions. While the tag will become redundant, it will also remain lurking within web pages that continue to use it for years to come.