Battle of the Directories:
Yahoo vs. the ODP
By Andrew Goodman - June 17, 2000
What's in a
directory? Some of the hottest debates about web search revolve
around criticisms of the Yahoo! directory. Often these are general
complaints: link rot; difficulty in getting considered for a listing;
the inability of Yahoo! to keep pace with the growth of the web.
down" to investigate the merits of such claims. Is the Open
Directory Project, a much-touted alternative to Yahoo!, doing a
To begin answering
that question I simply chose a subcategory that interests me. Totally
unscientific, and the first thing I thought of. I'm interested in
"unified messaging services" such as Jfax and Onebox,
and want to see a listing of all such services. Do Yahoo and dmoz
give me what I need? Is one better than the other? Let's find out.
unified messaging services in the following category:
Here we find
36 listed services. Three, including Jfax, are listed in bold. The
bolded listings appear to be associated with entries that have more
comprehensive information and additional links, including a stock
chart and company info in Jfax's case.
dead links was the next task, using a sophisticated method called
"clicking on every link." I clicked on all 36, and 35
out of 36 were active, living, breathing companies. One had been
acquired by Critical Path. One seems to have gone out of business
recently; hence the nonfunctional link.
unified messaging in this category:
There are 25
services listed in the category. One helpful feature of Dmoz, one
I hadn't noticed before, was an available description of the category.
Here, the Category Editor lays out some ground rules for getting
listed in the category and concludes with a rather pushy-sounding
"Now y'all play nice and let's try to keep things in order
around here." Wonder if it's official dmoz policy to let Editors
spout off like this.
has some clear opinions about what categories are appropriate, and
evidently takes a personal interest in technological matters related
to this category, to a point where perhaps arcane distinctions are
being made to sort entries amongst various categories and sub-categories.
This Editor has also made a rule that the companies listed shall
not be "re-sellers of products or services." Perhaps it's
important to keep the category from degenerating into a free-for-all
of everyone co-branding the underlying services of the companies
listed in this category, but then again, resellers can often provide
value-added and custom services (say, something specifically designed
to reduce the price of calls between Asia and the US) that are significant
modifications of or variations on the toolbox provided by the technology
provider. It's a judgment call, but one wonders if the definition
is too rigid and rooted in an idiosyncratic view of what counts
as "original" technology as opposed to reselling.
In fact, a
cursory check of one of the listed companies showed that it is a
reseller of another company's unified messaging product. So much
for the self-imposed rules.
Out of 25 services
listed in the Dmoz category, all links were functional. They did
have a few quirks, however.
had a first-person description - ("use our service") -
a practice which is clearly out of bounds.
One entry seemed
slightly mislabeled (the company focuses mainly on fax services),
and was a bit odd. One of its graphics looked to be Anthony Robbins
wearing a headset. Fun with Photoshop? Weird, in any case.
freecomms.co.uk, was actually a site that offered ratings and reviews
of these sorts of services. As such, it was clearly miscategorized,
though it looks to be an uncommonly useful site.
numerous quirks and errors, one is naturally led to wonder whether
the claim of tough listing criteria is meant to obfuscate a capricious
listing practice intended to help friends and reject competitors.
two directories, there are some relatively inconsequential variations.
eFax is listed under unified messaging in Dmoz, but under fax services
in Yahoo!. UReach is listed under unified messaging in Yahoo!, but
under Personal Information Managers in Dmoz. Of course, those submitting
sites are largely responsible for such variations, as they submit
to whatever category feels a appropriate. Taxonomy, then, is a joint
effort amongst submitters and editors.
In my opinion,
the test drive shows Yahoo! to be slightly superior. Yahoo! also
now has a business-to-business directory, whereas Dmoz does not.
There are no major conclusions to be drawn here. Both the Dmoz and
Yahoo! directories are good; both have their problems. The beauty
of the above methodology is that you can run this quick test in
a couple of your own areas of interest.
you'll find that contrary to Dmoz propaganda, Yahoo!'s directory
ain't broken. It might even be better.
Can you afford
not to know this stuff?
up for the weekly Traffick Newsletter
and stay informed!