If Web directories have become more common, why haven’t they become more useful?
One reason could be that for all the power of intricate algorithms and turbocharged search engines, the Web is still something that’s created by humans for humans. Maybe the whole thing would work better if it had fewer high-tech bells and whistles and more low-tech brains and heart.
That’s the thinking behind the Open Directory Project, one of my new favorite Web starting points — and a nice alternative to conventional commercial directories.
The OSD’s goal “is to produce the most comprehensive directory of the web, by relying on a vast army of volunteer editors.” These volunteer editors cultivate their own mini-gardens of expertise — planting sites that work, pruning ones that don’t, and arranging the results with an eye toward what people actually need.
The directory now contains more than one million sites organized into some 164,000 categories — all of it done by more 17,000 people working for free. Think of OSD as a hybrid of Linux and Yahoo!: a self-organized community of people motivated mainly by the desire to create something cool (Linux) is producing a comprehensive and continually updated directory of the vast resources of the World Wide Web.
Try it the next time you get sick of banner ads, dead links, and Pokemon sweepstakes.