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    About DMOZ
    Since 1998, DMOZ has been the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. Supported by AOL, it is constructed and maintained by a passionate, global community of volunteer editors.
    Jan 29th 2010 5:31PM
    DMOZ: A Decade in Review
    Hi Everyone,

    This week, we have a very special guest blogger! Bob Keating, our editor-in-chief, has prepared some personal thoughts and insights on the directory's next decade. Enjoy!


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    The other night I was watching an old episode of the TV show "Six Feet Under," in which the character Ruth is coaxed by a friend to attend a self-help seminar called, "The Plan." The Plan uses the house as a metaphor for examining and re-building one's life. When Ruth tells her family about "The Plan," she learns it is not as new to her as it is to others. Her children believe it to be a cult, but show little concern of their mother's interests. Ruth's free-spirited sister said she went through The Plan in the 1970s when it was called something else, and then commented how Ruth's kitchen is exactly the same as it was back then. Ruth realized just how much rebuilding she had to do. She was terminally unhip and out of touch with the world around her.

    As I was watching others respond to Ruth's involvement with The Plan, I began to think about DMOZ. Over a decade ago, DMOZ was a new and intriguing idea of getting the web to organize itself by having web users build it, manage it, and develop it. DMOZ had its fair share of detractors, particularly from those who argued that its model would never result in a quality, commercially viable service. Then there were those who understood the possibilities of an emerging social media, and went on to build powerful consumer brands based on the idea of self-organizing communities.

    The '00s: Growth, Loss and Rebirth

    Reflecting over the past decade it is too easy to come up with a list of DMOZ's successes. In the last ten years, DMOZ has gone from scrappy start-up to search industry stalwart. DMOZ data is consumed by thousands of search engines and websites in over 80 languages, from Google to smaller, special interest websites.

    DMOZ has scaled to become, and sustained itself as the largest human-edited directory of the web. Over 84,000 editors (and growing) have contributed over the years, listing of more than 4.5 million websites total. DMOZ has been a major influence in the rise of social media, inspiring the creation of projects like Wikipedia. Its model for collaboration has been refined and improved upon to form the basis of a number of other editor-contributor projects.

    At the beginning of the last decade, DMOZ was managed by a small staff that had the goal of turning DMOZ into a self-regulating community of editors. DMOZ has pushed the limits of community self-regulation. Today, DMOZ operates primarily as a self-governing meritocracy in which day-to-day activities – from editor account requests to submission suggestions and editorial quality – are wholly managed by the community with limited staff oversight.

    A review of the past decade would not be complete without mentioning the day DMOZ went dark in late 2006 after a catastrophic operations failure. The herculean efforts and steadfast dedication of its technical editors and community leaders brought DMOZ back to life.

    Over the '00 decade, DMOZ has grown to be one of the most successful collaborative projects on the web. It has outlasted its commercial counterparts, and continues to be relevant in the search industry. The keys to its longevity and usefulness are its dedicated community, its open, collaborative editorial model, its non-commercial nature, and open data distribution channel.

    The '10s: Looking Ahead

    As easy as it is to come up with a list of DMOZ's successes, it's equally easy to come up with a list of things it can improve upon. This list is well documented in the annals of editor forums and search engine industry blogs.

    Much like Ruth's kitchen and her life in general, DMOZ still looks and operates much the same way it did a decade ago ... avocado green appliances and all. While DMOZ receives hundreds of editor applications, and lists thousands of websites each week, it needs a new Plan – a new blueprint for the future of how the web is organized, and how human organized data is consumed.

    Using traditional web directories as a means for information discovery is a thing of the past. However, the need for organized web-based content continues to grow exponentially. The future of DMOZ does not lie merely in improving its toolset, making it more SEO friendly, or convincing others of its collective brilliance. Its future lies in turning the entire thing on its head.

    In 2020, here's what I hope will be listed as the early successes of DMOZ during the '10s – and since DMOZ has been a bit like the Hotel California to me, I might even be writing it:

    • Developed an API to DMOZ data that allowed editors and developers across the web to write new applications using DMOZ data
    • Transformed from a fixed-path directory, to the largest faceted system for organizing information on the web
    • Become a major influencer in bringing the semantic web out of the lab and the enterprise, and into the entire web, popularizing Web 3.0 applications
    • Transformed DMOZ from a single service operated by a relatively closed and exclusive community to a suite of products with multiple levels of participation and engagement, particularly around communities of interests, both commercial and non-commercial.

    And hopefully that's just 2010. What's said in the years ahead depends on how the web community shapes DMOZ and develops new ways of using its data and services. I'm excited by the future of DMOZ as much as I was in January 2000.
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