Open Directory Project

Upon my evaluation of the Open Directory Project, I have rated it at seventy-five percent.


The Open Directory Project, also known as DMOZ or the ODP, is a pioneer in the web directory industry, accomplishing a remarkable task under the capable leadership of its founders, Rich Skrenta, Bob Truel, Chris Tolles, Bryn Dole, and Jeremy Wenokur, utilizing a volunteer staff of thousands of editors throughout the world.

I was one of those editors. I was with the project since before it became known as the Open Directory Project, and was an early meta editor with the ODP. I spent several rewarding years with the ODP, although it has been several years since I have had a login.

Originally called Gnuhoo, after facing criticism for its use of a name that implied a relationship with the GNU project, its name was briefly changed to NewHoo, which Yahoo objected to. Around that time, it was acquired by Netscape, and became the Open Directory Project. As the directory was hosted on the subdomain,, which still redirects to the ODP domain, the Open Directory Project chose the domain name,, and is often known as DMOZ. Before long, Netscape was itself acquired by America Online, and the ODP became an asset of AOL.

In past reviews and comments that have made, here, in our forum, and elsewhere, I have questioned whether anyone was still alive at the Open Directory Project, since I hadn't heard of anyone having been able to have a site listed in more than a decade. Since then, I have heard from people who have had their sites listed in the Open Directory Project, so I can no longer make that claim.

I believe that it is fair to say, however, that the Open Directory Project no longer has the large, dedicated staff of volunteers that it once had, and that its remaining editors are having trouble keeping up. Some categories haven't been updated in years, and the chances that a submitted site will be accepted into the directory is low and long.

Nevertheless, if you have a website to promote, a listing in the Open Directory Project surely isn't going to do you any harm, and it's free.

The index page of the Open Directory Project has a Google PageRank of seven, and there are internal pages as deep as eight levels in that still have PageRank, including at least one seventh-level category with a PageRank of four. Its Moz Domain Authority is 97/100, its Alexa Traffic Rank is 768, and its SEMRush Rank is 12,940.

The Open Directory Project has 1,183 Facebook likes, 298 Google+ clicks, 9,850 StumbleUpon stumbies, and 2,519 Twitter tweets.

In our reviews, we evaluate a site according to five general areas: aesthetics (10%), content (25%), intuitiveness (20%), quality (20%), and usefulness (25%), assessing each directory from the perspective of a directory user, rather than a site submitter or SEO professional.

Aesthetics - 6/10

The Open Directory Project has a retro look, but that's fitting for one of the oldest web directories on the Internet. In fact, the ODP has undergone only one design change that I am aware of, and that was when they replaced their logo in 1999. I don't mind retro, and I don't require frequent design changes. I preferred its original logo, anyhow.

The main menu takes up a small amount of real estate on the directory's index page, consisting of sixteen upper-level categories, with its World category taking up the bottom line of the menu.

In my opinion, the one thing that mars the directory's index page is its Kids and Teens category. Not only is this the only category that consists of more than one word, but it's colored. I was a meta editor at the time that they added this category, and disagreed with it at the time. I still do.

Other than that, while there is nothing overly impressive about the look of the Open Directory Project's pages, neither is there much that is particularly wrong with it.

The directory makes excellent use of its above and below the line feature in its subcategories, which allows it to separate subcategories into as many as three different areas, which not only aids its usability and intuitiveness, but the organization also plays into its aesthetics.

Content - 21/25

I was not surprised to find the Open Directory Project topped out at my preset 200,000 link limit when I scanned the directory with my Scrutiny program, as the ODP has a huge amount of content.

Of the two hundred thousand links that were checked, Scrutiny found 5,622 that were identified as bad, or approximately .02 percent. Of these, a fair number were to the now defunct domain. The majority of the bad links identified returned the following three errors: 404, unsupported URL, or A server with the specified hostname could not be found.

However, the directory includes quite a few empty categories, but I'll speak more about that within the quality section. The Open Directory Project is lacking in fresh content, and that will be reflected here, as well as elsewhere.

Intuitiveness 20/20

The Open Directory Project's taxonomy is excellent, which may be attributed to two things. At the time that its current category structure was developed, they employed a professional taxonomist, who advised and made recommendations, as the directory's cadre of editors debated every aspect of its taxonomy. Its regional structure alone was the result of more than two years of argument.

The result was a directory structure that is very easy to follow, complemented by good use of @links, See Also links, and its above and below the line features, which greatly enhance the user experience.

In addition, the ODP's World tree, which lists sites in languages other than English, duplicates the general directory as much as possible.

Quality - 13/20

Unfortunately, the Open Directory Project came about at a time when bandwidth and server space was at a premium, and perhaps this is what led to its adoption of skimpy site descriptions, offering very little information, in sentence fragments, as a standard, one that has since been adopted by many other directories.

While I was involved with the Open Directory Project, I know that a large number of editors frowned on the use of relevant keywords in site descriptions, and would regularly strip out any keyword or keyword phrases that might be used to adequately describe the site. Thus, site descriptions are not particularly descriptive, often consisting of only a few words, and sometimes as little as two. On the positive side, I have not come across any site descriptions that were promotional.

There are editors within the Open Directory Project who maintain their areas of responsibility within the directory, but there are many categories that have not been updated in years, with submitted sites languishing in the queue, even when submitted to empty categories. Due, no doubt, to reduced editor involvement, far too many of the Open Directory Project's categories are stale.

Usefulness - 13/25

There was a time when the Open Directory Project was the place to go when you were looking for something on the Internet. There is still a lot to find in the directory but, as mentioned earlier, there is not a lot of fresh content. There are several empty categories at the lower levels of its category structure.

Its excellent taxonomy is a large plus when it comes to usefulness, as it is very easy for someone to find his way around the directory. However, its lack of descriptive content renders its search feature far less useful than it would otherwise be.

Category descriptions are used to provide instructions to site submitters, not to guide directory users.

Extra Credit - 2

Whatever might be said about the Open Directory Project, it was a true pioneer in the web directory industry, one of only a few that are still online. The Open Directory Project will always have a warm place in my heart, and for these reasons, I am giving it two extra credit points.

Overall Rating - 75

Upon my evaluation of the Open Directory Project, I have rated it at seventy-five percent.


I would like nothing better than to see the Open Directory Project get new blood, or perhaps some of its old blood back, so that its categories would be fresh once again. Times are tougher today, I know, and it may be more difficult to find people who are willing to volunteer their time for a project that is owned by a for-profit company.

During the years that I was a meta editor there, it was not unusual for me to devote more time to the Open Directory Project, in a typical week, than I was to my paid job.

While there were, no doubt, some unethical actions on the part of some of the directory's thousands of editors, this was not the norm, and corruption was dealt with quickly and regularly. In various forums, I come across a lot of people complaining that editors with the ODP are there only to add their own sites, and those of their clients. While I cannot attest for current practices within the directory, as I haven't had a login for years, I heard a lot of the same stuff when I was an editor there, and I don't believe that it was true then, so I don't know that it is true today.


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