Bring back the human-curated web directory

Open Directory Project 1999 home page
Wayback Machine/
Nostalgia, with the Open Directory Project. This archived page from 1999 isn’t even the original. I still remember when it was called Gnuhoo in 1998.
Where have all the web directories gone? It seems we need them more than ever, since Google is so poor at ranking websites (while it funds the worst). Yahoo!’s original directory is history, and the Open Directory Project (DMoz) died in 2017 (a snapshot of the old site still exists at About the only one I can find is Best of the Web, which transformed itself from a website looking at the web’s best designs to an expensive paid directory (you do what you need to do to survive). Yelp isn’t really in the same league.

I know there’s a call for it because earlier this year, a very large US corporation wrote to me to ask if they could have a link from our company’s old link directory. This is the sort of thing I used to do in the 1990s when trying to get a website known. You’d build the site, you’d submit it to the directories (Yahoo! and, when it eventually came into being, the ODP, which began life as Gnuhoo) and the search engines (the credible ones had ‘Add URL’ forms). And if you still wanted more, you approached people who maintained their private link lists to see if they’d include you. You’d offer to exchange links with those in similar industries, because the more inbound links you had, the better Google et al would rank you.

The fact this well known, listed company would write personal emails to get inbound links tells me there’s value in doing so, and what a vacuum exists on the web without a human-curated link directory.

Google has shown us just how search engines fail to discern real from fake, and how Google in particular has fuelled the rise of the fakes, so a legitimate human-edited space is needed more than ever. Google has even shown us its own absolute failure in discerning quality news sources from splogs with its News product. However, it has more to lose by putting things straight than by attempting to fix things, same as Facebook which could work to kill bot accounts, but chooses not to.

Jack Yan & Associates’ site is not on a mobile-friendly template and earlier today I thought maybe it should be, since so many of our sites are. If there’s a need for those link pages in 2023, then maybe they should be made more prominent—we’ve tidied up Lucire’s lists, for instance.

For now, those links are here, with a lead page done in 2021 and internal pages on a template I designed in the early 2000s. We looked at making those pages more contemporary but found that just made them boring—so for now they’re still on that ancient template.

I still update them but it’s usually about removing links rather than appending—but this is something I sense will change going forward.

We now have Mojeek, a better search engine than Google since it doesn’t snoop or fund rubbish; and we need a major web directory again.

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