No, it’s not a joke. It’s an exciting news item you may have missed in yesterday’s Montreal Gazette. Montreal is of course one of the giants in the Information Technology world. There have been many exciting major software developments done here. My favourite is the Copernic Desktop Search software, which beats the pants off the other contenders such as Google and Microsoft. I believe we may be seeing something similar in the Internet Search Directory field.
A few words of explanation may be in order. Internet Search Directories attempt to list all the worthwhile websites on the Internet. Since their number is measured in the billions, this is no easy task. Directories got a great deal of momentum when Google decided to count back links to a web page as a measure of the importance of that web page. A back link is another web page, which has a link to the web page of interest. As Google grew so did the interest in Internet Directories. Here was a place where web pages could get listed and create back links.
The biggest directory of them all was what is called the Open Directory Project (ODP). Here is part of their own explanation of what they do.
The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors. The Open Directory provides the means for the Internet to organize itself. As the Internet grows, so do the number of net-citizens. These citizens can each organize a small portion of the web and present it back to the rest of the population, culling out the bad and useless and keeping only the best content.
For a time, it even looked as though Google would enter into some type of alliance with the ODP. This would have matched what Yahoo! does with its own pay-for-insertion directory. However for whatever reasons, that association never came to pass. The Google Directory based on the ODP used to be on the main front search page. Now it’s very tough to find the Google Directory, buried as it is within the Google website. Google seems to feel that the best way to find something is by Search rather than by looking in a Directory.
The Directory movement has not been helped by the fragmentary performance of the ODP. Although some parts are good, others are very questionable. The time for a new website to be included in the Directory is unknown and often measured in months. There are wide-scale public complaints about the ODP, which it seems to disregard. There is a partial vacuum for anyone who would like to use a good directory.
Last year, Peter Da Vanzo, a search marketing strategist and industry commentator, who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, decided to fill that gap. He created the RubberStamped Directory. Here is how it is described:
For Webmasters we guarantee a two-day turn-around. For Users, we place emphasis on usability and semantics. Our aim is to make this directory clear, concise and easy to use. We’re helping to build the semantic web. We charge webmasters a review fee, which helps us cover the costs involved in editorial, maintenance and bandwidth.
Peter Da Vanzo is the author of the original search engine blog, aptly named www.searchengineblog.com, and this has been one of the ways that news of this interesting Directory has circulated.
Now we have another contender to help fill the gap. It’s called Zenome and was developed here in Montreal. Its developers are Zsolt Szigetvari and John Connolly, Communications teachers at Dawson College who also teach at Concordia University. Here is how they describe their Directory:
Zenome is a unique, self-organizing, internet search directory. It harnesses the collective intelligence of all its users in order to determine the most relevant Web Pages for any given search. It grows organically with the Web. Zenome shares its revenue with the people who help to build it, and with the community at large. Like the Human Genome Project, Zenome is a collaborative venture. Its purpose is to develop and maintain an ever-expanding directory of Web-based materials.
Zenome will rely on advertising revenues from sponsored links to make the whole enterprise work.
So we wish Zenome well. It’s a tough market place, but they seem to have a very interesting Directory from an initial exploration. However even the best mousetrap doesn’t market itself, so we trust we’ll be seeing a blog on this soon. As Robert Scoble of Microsoft would say, that’s the only way to market.