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Monday, December 18, 2006

AOL and Its Discontents Doom DMOZ (Open Directory Project)

DMOZ is a favorite way for webmasters and bloggers to get indexed and ranked highly by search engines. Essentially, DMOZ is a community created directory of websites, much like Yahoo's directory except more open. However, if you tried to submit your site recently, DMOZ, otherwise known as the Open Directory Project (ODP), gave you an error message.

Owned by Netscape, which is in turn owned by AOL, DMOZ has been a victim of AOL's internal reshuffling, which resulted in massive layoffs including 450 at its Dulles headquarters so that even after several months, the problem still hasn't been solved. According to Rich Skrenta, an ODP editor,
Apparently the machine holding dmoz in AOL ops crashed. Standard backups had been discontinued for some reason; during unsuccessful attempts to restore some of the lost data, ops blew away the rest of the existing data on the system.

So for the past 6 weeks, a few folks have been trying to patch the system back together again (reverse engineering from the latest RDF dump, I suppose). But 6 weeks is a very long outage. Add in the massive AOL layoffs last week, and it's not clear if there's even any left over there who cares. Even if some form of the ODP editing system is brought back, the likelihood of continued existence within AOL seems extremely doubtful.
DMOZ's situation illustrates well the dangers of hosting an open, community-centered project within a corporation which doesn't really get open source. Of course, in some ways, the whole idea of using human labor in a centralized way to create a directory of interesting sites is outdated. Nowadays, tagging a la Del.icio.us is the way to go. Everyone creates their own personal directory of the web and can share that with the rest of the community. No moderation or editing necessary.Technorati Tags: , ,


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