10 Steps AOL Should Take to Reinvent the Open Directory Project (DMOZ)

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Lately AOL has been taking some intriguing steps in their relationship building with the website publishing and marketing world. This week, AOL’s controversial Netscape Open Directory Project took a peep from behind the curtain and launched the Open Directory Project Blog.

Why? DMOZ and AOL have been very silent while bloggers have been exposing the ‘volunteer’ editors of their directory for extortion and charging site owners to approve their listings in the super valuable directory.

It was also noted over the weekend that a search for ‘DMOZ’ on Google did not show the Netscape Open Directory Project in its results, something that probably had site owners and directory editors cringing at the possibility of a change in DMOZ rankings.

The mix of issues surrounding DMOZ may of awakened a sleeping giant at AOL, as the launch of the DMOZ blog may be the start of a new series of actions by the company to take full advantage of their Open Directory.

The fact of the matter is however, AOL has been ignoring DMOZ for far too long. What was once a powerhouse and respected online resource has now become somewhat of a joke. While DMOZ was operating under the same outdated and idealistic system that it was launched under, the Internet changed, and DMOZ’s authority position, mission and vision was replaced by Wikipedia and Digg … while its original founders left to launch a profitable community driven 2.0 news monster in Topix.

AOL, decided to wipe the dust off of some of its web properties last year, after acquiring Weblogs Inc. from Jason Calacanis in an effort to revive its content channels and build an online advertising empire around its new web presence. Jason wooed the AOL heads enough to resurrect the AOL brand Netscape into a new social web site, using the same content rewriting philosophy of Weblogs, Inc. with a bit of paid editorial Digging spun in : which has resulted in mixed reviews inside and outside of the company.

Now, as of last week, AOL decided to kick their troublesome social media & news sharing project out of its home at the PageRank 9 uber-authority domain at Netscape.com and move it over to the previously dormant Propeller.com.

By choosing a new and unbranded domain, AOL accomplished two things with the old Netscape social plan, sweeping it under the rug while giving its loyal crew a sandbox to play in. But in this action, AOL continued to ignore its Netscape DMOZ property.

I see this as a critical mistake in the direction of DMOZ and the Netscape Social/Propeller project. I mean, is there a better and more valuable AOL owned property to spin into a new webmaster driven social experience besides Netscape.com? Yes, in DMOZ!

AOL, learn from your mistakes and let DMOZ pull itself up out of the mud and redefine the categorization of Internet properties in similar way that they did almost 10 years ago. AOL should have waited to relaunch Netscape and have done so under the DMOZ umbrella.

Here is what AOL should do with the DMOZ to catch up to the rest of the Internet:

  1. Build an individual profile page for each site listed under the DMOZ. If that site offers RSS feeds, aggregate those feeds in the profile.
  2. Install a voting system so users of sites can vote on those sites, or the news stories under those sites in the same fashion of Netscape. The sites with the most votes work their way up in the Netscape category rankings, so sites are not listed in alphabetical order but in authority order.
  3. Add that voting to establish a new authority ranking system, with an algorithm based upon voting, freshness, incoming links and categorical relevant content.
  4. Use the Netscape/Digg style platform to incentivize site owners, marketers and readers to submit new content for voting. Voting for the domain in the DMOZ profile, from the target site, and the DMOZ hosted social news sharing are all accumulated into a master voting score, which is used in the algorithm and then made open to search engines for using in their own ranking algorithms.
  5. In the same fashion that Topix became a user generated content community with the addition of comments, add commenting and a field for users to add relevant sites to the DMOZ listings.
  6. Since, in the fashion of Netscape/Propeller/Weblogs, Inc., the DMOZ editors will now be paid, moderating the listings, comments, voting and submissions will now be controlled via payment while also becoming open and trackable in a similar fashion to Wikipedia.
  7. Other content can be served on these profile sites via partnerships, but since AOL Search has its own video, news and social properties; give that content preferred presence.
  8. Serve advertising on DMOZ, its social voting channel, and its internal profile pages. Doing so will generate income for AOL while also paying for the editing so site owners can still submit for free while assuring fast turnaround.
  9. Google AdSense and similar ad platforms fueled the Web 2.0 and blogging movement by giving publishers the means of instantly monetizing their ideas. There is no reason why DMOZ cannot do the same and still be respected as ‘open’ and ‘Moz’ : two labels which have been the target of capital for years now.
  10. Integrate the GoGuides point scoring format for grading and issuing reputation and rankings for editors, they will then be paid bonuses.

What do you think about the future of the Netscape Open Directory Project (DMOZ) and how AOL can take it Back to the Future? Please leave your comments below.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
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  • Daniel Scocco


    I agree that bringing the social factor into the directory would make it more reliable/useful.

    I doubt we will see anything similar though.

  • David Brown

    I really like the idea of a social voting aspect. I’m sure many would not be but then again you can’t make everyone happy!

    It’s going to be interesting to see what they do with this opportunity to change.



  • Adam Maywald

    Great post Loren! Another idea too, if they did create a Digg style voting system, push sites within the directory UP as “Diggs” are acquired. This would push the authority, content-rich sites higher with the directory pages, offering better listings for viewers.

  • Sante

    The situation with DMOZ is one of decay and corruption as you described it in your post as far as I can see. There is no reason for websites to be put on ice forever. This is what is happening in Italy.

    There are other rather “strange” situations I prefer not to disclose – it would be like looking at a tree without seeing the forest.

    I think the only way out is to reset the entire organization: new rules, new blood are essential.

    Extensive damage has been done by now and it will take a lot of work to get back where they were some years ago.

  • DMOZ

    These are great ideas and appreciate the time and creativity you put into writing it.

    One minor comment, the Shoemoney claim you point to is still baseless. Fiction. Unproven. LinkBait.

    It hurts that it is accepted as a statement of fact (without showing proof) and unfortunately not the only mention of stuff like this happening. Please know that this is something we remedy from inside as soon as it is raised & proven. And please highlight that commitment in future posts to hold us accountable.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • Peter

    I am not too keen on the idea of a web 2.0 DMOZ. This would be just as open to abuse as the current DMOZ is.

    People would be paying others for voting for their sites for example pretty much in the same way the problem has been occurring with Digg.

    I do agree that DMOZ needs a shake up and that ordering in some way is a good idea however.

  • Anthony

    For sometime now, I have been one who has long tried to call AOL to accountability for this botched site, so I am not sure what I think anymore. I guess I was a bit miffed at the fact that some people were benefiting from it and others were truly getting the cold shoulder.

    Turning it into a Web 2.0 site might give it some new life, but I think it needs a revamping in terms of how its run. I don’t know how they would determine who the good editors are vs. the corrupt ones, but the last thing that needs to happen is to pay the people who have brought the sites reputation down. If anything, AOL should turn it into a profit center and manage it internally – yes, get rid of the editors, and just hire employees. I think a few bad apples may have spoiled it for the rest, and I don’t think they deserve to maintain control for running a company where money actually exchanges hands.