Open Directory Project Launches ODP Public Forums

A group of editors from the Open Directory Project have started an unofficial public forum to discuss issues and share information about the web's "third" directory.

Though many people don't know about or use the Open Directory Project (ODP) directly, it's still a major player in the world of web navigation. Many of the major search engines supplement their crawler-built databases with ODP data, and hundreds of smaller "search engines" are nothing more than front-ends to the ODP itself.

ODP data shows up in many forms. Some search engines, like Lycos, Google and HotBot offer separate "directory" features that are straight dumps of ODP data. Google also incorporates ODP "categories" directly into search results. Other services, such as WebBrain and, have built interesting and useful visual interfaces to the ODP.

So despite its relatively low profile, the ODP is an important resource for site owners and webmasters to be listed in, since it has such an extensive reach.

And this has led to controversy. Although the ODP is owned by the Netscape division of AOL Time Warner, it is compiled by volunteer editors. These editors have a high level of control over what's included -- and excluded. Complaints from the webmaster community over capricious editorial activity (or inactivity) have been abundant. There have also been numerous reports of summary judgments resulting in editors being "fired" from their posts without explanation or recourse.

The new public forum appears to be a good-faith effort on the part of a number of editors to help people better understand the ODP and how it works. The site is sponsored and run by the Editors of the ODP and is in no way affiliated with Netscape Communications Corporation, and is moderated by the ODP Meta Editors Community.

If you're a webmaster, site owner, or editor wannabe, it's well worth the time to peruse the forums and get some insight from editors familiar with the service. You'll get some excellent tips on how best to approach being included in this essential web directory.

But don't expect answers to many types of specific questions regarding listings or editors, and don't even think of using the forum as a soapbox for gripes or criticism of ODP policies. "While the ODP is based on democratic principles, it does not try to imitate a democratic government. You are free to talk about anything you want... somewhere else," says the communications and posting guidelines for the forum.

Open Directory Project Public Forum
The Forum is an additional, unofficial channel of communications between the general public and the editing community, where advice on site submissions and placement, becoming an editor and other information about the directory can be dispensed.

The Open Directory Project
The ODP's official home.

Humans Do It Better: Inside the Open Directory Project
An inside look at the ODP, its history, operation, and some of the controversy surrounding its activities.

Sites Using ODP Data
A listing of the more than 200 search engines and directories using ODP data.

Humor: MSN Buys Open Directory Project
REDMOND, Wash. -- April 1, 2002 -- The MSN network of Internet services, with more than 270 billion unique reboots worldwide, today announced the addition of the Gates Open Directory (GOD), formerly known as the Open Directory Project.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.