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 While DMOZ was operating under the same outdated and idealistic system that it was launched under, the Internet changed, and DMOZ’s authority position, mission and vision was replaced by Wikipedia and Digg …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.
Loren Baker
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