Respect For DMOZ


Whilst I was scanning through Barry's blog at SEL, I came across this post he mentioned entitled R-E-S-P-E-C-T for DMOZ.

A DMOZ editor complains "Everybody loves Google, everybody loves Wikipedia - so why doesn't everybody love DMOZ?"

My blog post would be rather long if I listed all the reasons why I think people don't love DMOZ, so I'll stick to fisking the contents of the editors post.

For those who don't know what DMOZ is, and that would be the vast majority of web users, DMOZ is a largely redundant internet directory that came about back when Yahoo! Directory was too slow at processing listing requests.

Webmasters familiar with DMOZ will appreciate the obvious irony, given that you can now get a Yahoo Directory listing in a couple of days, whereas DMOZ is a hit and miss affair, specializing mostly in "miss".

Let's take a look at the points raised:

Ask people how they search the web, and most will tell you what Google does well, what Wikipedia does well - and what DMOZ doesn't do well.

Ask people how they search the web, and you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who knows what DMOZ is, let alone outline it's faults.

The reasons for that will become obvious.

Perhaps you heard something on the news about the Somali pirates and want to learn more. .... Now what about Somalia in general? How did it get to this point? What's the history of the country, and what's going on with their government? How do you find answers to these questions without wasting a lot of time? This is where DMOZ can go to DMOZ's Somalia category. Start with Guides and Directories to find background information.

Students of philosophy will recognize this as an argument by selective observation. Cherry picking, in other words.

Well, it would have been had the author cherry picked an example that actually supported her argument. If you go into the recommended category, Africa/Somalia/, what will you find?

One listing.

For Wikipedia.

You just couldn't make this stuff up.

One could go into the sub categories, and whilst there are some useful listings there, there is nothing I couldn't find in greater detail in Google or Wikipedia. Helpfully, DMOZ frequently suggests I actually go to Wikipedia instead.

Who am I to argue?

Anyway, let's compare another search to see how well DMOZ does.

If I want to find out about SEO, I get presented with this category Web Design and Development: Promotion

Whilst there are some fine resources listed there, is this a useful reflection of SEO in 2009? Who are Majon International, for example? Why is Eric Ward seemingly the center of the SEO universe? Nothing against Eric, BTW.

Likewise, if I want to find out about New Zealand, it seems that "Hallidays Timber Limited" is very important, as they are the only site listed at the top level, as is - of all things - Usenet.

I could go on.

I'm sure there are great DMOZ categories, but like all things DMOZ, it's very much a hit and miss affair. Wikipedia and Google are a lot more "hit", and a lot less "miss", which is why people use them, and not DMOZ.

Sometimes they use 'relevant' keywords and page titles to game the system and achieve a higher ranking than they really deserve

Couldn't let that one go.

Apparently using keywords and page titles "games" the system. If they thought that were true, then why is DMOZ supposedly ""gaming the system" using titles and relevant keywords, too?

DMOZ certainly does irony well.

There's all sorts of relevant information to be found on the web, and the broader the topic the more useful DMOZ is.

Well, quite frankly, no it isn't.

If I want broad information, I use Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is infinitely more useful than DMOZ because it solved the problem DMOZ failed to do. It ran an editing system that anyone could contribute to easily, thus creating enormous value in terms of relevant, timely content. Updating and editorial was both transparent and immediate, which needs to happen, lest the information become outdated.

DMOZ chose to place editorial control in the hands of a small cabal of editors, and in so doing, made the directory opaque, unresponsive, and outdated.

That's the final irony.

The editorial policy of DMOZ killed DMOZ.

Published: May 6, 2009 by A Reader in directories


May 6, 2009 - 1:05am

DMOZ reminds me of all governments that try to run everything (totalitarian/socialist) and always end up opaque, unresponsive, and outdated.

May 6, 2009 - 8:22am

Wow, kudos for the epic (deserved) amount of ownage there.

May 6, 2009 - 9:24am

Its the DMOZ nazis that killed DMOZ, i dont have a problem with de-seoing my listing information, finding the appropriate category is a bit hit and miss cuz most sites fit in multiple and theyre not clear of submitting to more than one is acceptable (depends on the nazi) and the registration to publication lag is simply insane!

May 6, 2009 - 10:07am

DMOZ?!? What's that ;)

May 6, 2009 - 10:54am

I became a DMOZ editor for a category in which I wanted to get a site listed because I thought it would help with SEO.

Does that theory still hold true, or is there now no value in getting listed on DMOZ anymore?

I did see an uplift in ranking for this, and other sites that have got listed, although it's hard to be certain it was because of the DMOZ listing, given that I was doing other SEO work at the same time, which could have been the explanation.

May 7, 2009 - 12:43am

It is a good link if you can get it, but since they are generally outdated it is not worth spending too much effort on (unless you are in a category where getting links is hard and you are really struggling to come up with linkbait ideas).

May 6, 2009 - 1:37pm

Perhaps, they should slowly make DMOZ directory a WIKI. You couldn't make them all WIKI. Maybe just one at a time until they begin making little communities. You then could rank by a DIGG, CTR or a mix between the those and others.

May 7, 2009 - 12:46am

For broad online systems to be sustainable and relevant throughout additional web growth I think they need to have a semi-porous nature.

They could do like Mahalo does, where they have editorial additions, and then let users vote on other links to show on the page...with the user voted links being below the official category listings until they gain enough trust to jump the bridge. And you could use that popularity metric in part to set an order for which items to review next. And the public reviewers can have accounts that build trust (and anti-trust) based on the types of sites they voted for in the past, and if those sites were accepted into the directory.

May 6, 2009 - 2:03pm

Yeah, but some listings STILL seem to pull their result text from dmoz.

May 6, 2009 - 4:03pm


I've wondered this myself many times. I think it's due to two things.

1). My accidental good fortune of locating this one email from 1994 on an old PC in my basement.

2). Cases and cases of Red Bull


May 7, 2009 - 11:54pm

Cool to see youve put that e-mail on your website eric ;-). I'll never cease to be amazed how small a place the web is (or well how big of a place seobook is!)

Patrick..whos still wondering about the LTV of a link ;)

May 6, 2009 - 4:22pm

I think the web has vastly outgrown DMOZ or any other human review directory.

The up to date information that people want changes too fast for DMOZ to keep up. Just go to google trends top 100 and pick a few and see if DMOZ A) Has any results at all B) Has any results that are up to date.

Sorry DMOZ you were good back in 2000 but you haven't adapted to the way users are using the web.

Alex Chudnovsky
May 6, 2009 - 6:25pm

That's exactly right - I found very nice local to me sushi buffet, it's excellent so submitted a link to it (their competitor is listed) via DMOZ page, few days later no response so I thought - ok, I might as well become editor for my locality (very narrow local category), and got rejected within 15 minutes.

This is worse than Wikipedia and in itself this is amazing.

May 6, 2009 - 6:46pm

Had the same experience as Alex above. They reject editors at supersonic speed but never, EVER seem to approve new websites that are better than the 20 other piles of garbage that are in some of the categories.

And they are surprised no one is using them?

May 6, 2009 - 9:57pm

Funny, I wrote a solution for DMOZ and other directories for the future that relates quite closely to these points:

Enjoyed the sarcastic wit, Pete. Just so long as you don't overdo it.

BTW, I was thinking recently that I was getting better at IDing whether it was you or Aaron writing by the tone of the post, but this one was quite close to Aaron's style ...

May 7, 2009 - 12:48am

I love that his tone and mine are similar enough that they surprise subscribers...he has almost complete editorial independence (I did not add a word to this post or suggest any alterations) and yet the brand seems fairly consistent.

Peter is a far more talented writer than I am. I am just blunt :)

May 7, 2009 - 5:07am

It's quite a feat to find guest bloggers who will mesh that way. Though I think it's perhaps a product of time, because most of the other posts until now I told apart easily.

FYI: I enjoy both of your writing styles.

May 6, 2009 - 10:24pm


Nice email :)

My point is that list seems arbitrary. To be useful, it would need to be regularly updated and/or more inclusive. Most SEOs, I'm sure, could think of a few obvious names that don't appear on that list, which makes it of questionable value in terms of relevance.

Also, are those who came first more relevant than those who came latter? If so, William Howard Taft would be more relevant than Obama in 2009.

(Not a personal attack, BTW ;) Speaking generally....)

May 7, 2009 - 7:03am

@Geiger riiiiight, like digg and mixx arent being gamed like everything else.

May 7, 2009 - 11:04am

Seems like one of their 'smartest' editors has changed the DMoz page at:


The Wikipedia entry has been removed. I guess the editor has never heard what Cache means. Just to save them any efforts of reverting back:

Old page (from Google Cache):

New Page now (May 7):

May 7, 2009 - 10:31pm

They've removed "Halidays Timber" as well.

DMOZ are proving my point, of course. Their editorial policy doesn't result in a quality listing service.

May 11, 2009 - 8:13pm

DMOZ is a catch 22 situation: only those interested in a category want to be editors and if you have a reason for that interest they'll probably reject you.

Just today I looked into adding several businesses there and only one of them has a current editor. What are the odds of ever getting a site accepted without one or the odds of having them accept volunteers who work with any site that wants to be listed there?

The question is does it still matter whether you do or don't have a listing in DMOZ? They are still given space in the SEOBook ToolBar so does that mean yes?

P.S. I thought Eric Ward was the center of the Link Building universe.

May 11, 2009 - 9:05pm

It is a good link if you can get it. But for many other sites there are lots of other great link sources to pick from as well.

May 17, 2009 - 10:15am

I am surprised only by people still talking about DMOZ.

May 21, 2009 - 6:02pm

Not only does DMOZ suck at adding anything, they also seem to struggle over cleaning house.

At least it's been marginalized more and more over the years along with the death of the directory fad so that getting a DMOZ link doesn't equate into getting 5000 additional scraper directory links that the search engines loved. That was it's main source of strength. As it becomes more and more hamstrung, and more and more unknown its value decreases exponentially. Focus your link building efforts on sites that matter.

May 7, 2010 - 9:02pm

I am an owner of many domains that are listed in DMOZ. Sad to say, they must have identified me as an SEO and have since removed nearly all 90+ domains I had from the directory (in the past 3 days).

I have found these links to be quite helpful.

May 7, 2010 - 9:12pm

That shows how personal (and arbitrary) the game is that nearly 100 sites were good enough and now essentially none of them are.

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