Google's Directory, a relic of eras past, has been removed – with essentially no fanfare. This shutdown is part of a broader effort to focus in on a smaller but more powerful range of services.
The Closure of Google Directory
The Google Directory project launched in 2000 to compete with Yahoo's equivalent. While Google drew largely from DMOZ (the open directory project put together by Netscape, and which has since seen collaboration from AOL and others), but they also added a sorting function that ranked entries by relevance. The relevance sorting used an examination of link popularity in much the same way the standard Google rankings did at that time.
However, the Google Directory – as well as a wide range of other directory sites – have stopped functioning as a way to organize and publicize websites. With search now dominating our web navigation, directories are seen primarily for their link juice value. For that reason, Google has been slowing support on Google Directory for a while; at the end of last year, Google stopped supporting directory search.
Now the Google Directory is just gone: Visiting its former location gives you a message that Google just thinks you should use their search engine instead, and gives a link back to dmoz.org for those who are intent on using a directory. The message on the Google Directory page is the only official notification of the site being closed.
Rest in Peace, Outdated Services....
Google has been on a shutdown spree, with Google halting support for the Google Toolbar for Firefox, shutting down numerous APIs, closing Google PowerMeter and Google Health, and axing Labs. This idea of honing in on a few key products is one I've discussed before, and is certainly one I favor. Google has spent a long time using a shotgun when it should have been using a rifle.
Directories being shut down also moves us away from "bought SEO." Purchasing links from prominent directories or spending time mass-submitting directory entries have been established as gray-hat SEO tactics, and are often employed by spam websites in an attempt to crawl up the SERP. Google closing their directory may just be the first of many directory shutdowns in the coming months and years.