The Value of Non-Commercial Web Directories

As commercial web directories focus on advertising and other ways to make a profit, several general directories put together by non-commercial organizations offer excellent alternatives for web researchers.

The best known non-commercial directory is Open Directory Project. Its data "powers" the directories on hundreds of sites, including most of the major search engines such as Google and Lycos. Therefore, I'll focus on a few others.

The non-commercial directories noted in this article contain no advertising. Entries contain annotations written by information professionals. These directories also allow numerous searching and browsing options, and in some cases, offer users a weekly list of new entries. These tools can be very useful in the developing your own collection of "must have" bookmarks.

Most importantly, these directories strive for quality and authority of the underlying content, rather than trying to create the largest directories available.

Since anyone can place "anything" on the Internet, it's good to know that these and other non-commercial directories are ready to assist web researchers accessing and selecting high quality web-based information.

Now, here are five favorites.

The Librarians' Index to the Internet

  • Began in 1990. Currently contains over 10,000 entries.
  • Compiled and organized by librarians throughout the state of California.
  • The LII can be browsed or searched by keyword.
  • Every entry contains a brief annotation, subject heading, and a date when the url was last checked.
  • The "Advanced Search" interface allows searching on up to 10 fields.
  • The "New This Week" section is a great place to locate material for your own collections and bookmark files. This information is also available via a weekly email updated that's available at no charge.

Librarians' Index to the Internet

LII Advanced Search Interface

"New This Week" Listings

Registration for "New This Week" Mailing List


  • Started in 1994 at the University of California, Riverside. Currently contains over 40,000 "academically valuable resources."
  • Built by librarians from the University of California and other institutions.
  • INFOMINE can be browsed by subject or searched by keyword.
  • Each entry contains a brief annotation.
  • "Advanced Search" includes options to limit by six fields, user level, and subject category.
  • Provides weekly email alert service featuring new entries. It's available at no charge.

INFOMINE Advanced Search Interface

Registration Page for Weekly "What's New" Mailings

The Internet Public Library

  • Launched in 1995.
  • Compiled and organized at the University of Michigan School of Information.
  • The IPL is browsable by subject category and searchable by keyword.
  • Entries contain annotations.
  • Numerous "special collections" that include material about trade and professional associations and the presidents of the United States. You'll also find sections for kids and teens.
  • The IPL is also home to a collection of online books (over 20,000).

The Internet Public Library

Direct Access to IPL Book Online Books Collection

Resource Discovery Network

  • Began in early 1997 although the many subject portals that populate the RDN began several years earlier.
  • Compiled and organized by information professionals in the United Kingdom.
  • Entries contain annotations along with subject headings.
  • The RDN "Resource Finder" offers the ability to search many subject specific "portals" simultaneously. You can also browse and go directly to the underlying "portals".
  • Make sure to spend some time visiting each of the underlying directories. Each offers unique search/ browse options, and "what's new" listings. These directories include EEVL-engineering, math, computer science (pronounced Evil), SOSIG-social sciences (pronounced Sausage), and HUMBUL-humanities.
  • Those of you who teach web searching will want to look at another RDN project, The Virtual Training Suite.

Resource Discovery Network

Direct Access to Selected RDN Subject Specific Directories:

EEVL (Engineering, Computers)

SOSIG (Social Sciences)

HUMBUL (Humanities)

RDN Virtual Training Suite

Academic Info

  • Compiled and Organized by Mike Madin in Seattle.
  • "The mission of Academic Info is to be the premier educational gateway to online high school, college and research level Internet resources.
  • Very basic search interface, this directory is much more useful as a browsing tool.
  • Updated with new content on an almost daily basis.
  • The "What's New" lists are excellent places to turn to for resources about topics in the news.
  • Monthly email update is available at no charge.

Academic Info

The Current Academic Info "What's New" List

Gary Price is the Guest Editor of SearchDay, and publisher of ResourceShelf, a weblog covering the online information industry.

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NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

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