| This 71 message thread spans 3 pages: < < 71 ( 1  3 ) > > || |
|Why doesn't a new and improved competitor to DMOZ arise?|
If DMOZ is so valuable but so bad why hasn't a new competitor arisen?
Do you people think that it is possible for someone with a bright idea to beat dmoz?
Folks, we already know "how bad DMOZ is", so please - for the purpose of this thread - lets set that issue aside and keep the focus on this: Accepting that DMOZ is so bad, yet so important that people complain about DMOZ instead of simply walking away, why then hasn't some group take on the job of building a better DMOZ?
What would it take?
If DMOZ is valuable enough to get as much attention as it does - and it does, negative or otherwise - what's stopping the aggrieved from building their own version of The ODP?
Maybe it's going to happen . . some day?
Maybe the founders of Wikipedia are already working on it?
Piece of cake, right?
[edited by: Webwork at 8:11 pm (utc) on July 23, 2007]
|DMOZ alternative - why not? |
DMOZ alternative - why?
No, seriously, why do we need anything like a DMOZ? There was a time people found sites via search and directories. Then they moved on. When did you last use DMOZ to find a product/service/info? I use flickr to find images, youtube to find video, technorati/digg etc to find tech related stuff, webmaster forums to find answers to development related matters, various price comparison engines, ebay, weather channels, wikipedia etc. and other sites to find other specific information; some people use places like myspace or craigslist for a lot of their searches... But info also comes via a plethora of subscription emails, RSS feeds, podcasts and SMS.
I bet there are more people editing DMOZ than using it to find sites. My question therefore is: Why?
[edited by: oddsod at 5:59 pm (utc) on July 23, 2007]
--- then why doesn't some group take on the job of building a better DMOZ? --
I've read this thread and the other one in a queue. It is interesting to read about stuff that is irregular in general sort of speak. Suppose that there is another one like it, – DMOZ --, but better, more organized, just more. But what would be the main reason to do so, as in time spent building it, but for what purpose?
Methinks smaller, private directories are offering SE's a decent alternative to Dmoz .
I think the directory market will explode in value as the internet gets bigger.
Of course this will sound funny to most off you :)
Tis okay, I also hope I know what I am talking about
Just remember that google, yahoo, msn, ebay, fundamentally, are directories,
Remember that A/S 400s of 1990/2000/2007, Sunsparcs of 1990/2000/2007 are all related to the humble 3.1 GHZ , 500mb mass produced pc I am typing this post on.
Sure here's an easy solution:
1) Copy DMOZ.
2) Get an exclusive deal with a major SE like Google, Y! or MSN to list directory results (so you get interest and paying advertisers).... or these SE's could just do this themselves.
3) Split it into 2 sections - ONLINE ONLY or LOCAL. (Can't be listed in both). ONLINE ONLY businesses with no physical address should be listed supplemental as default (on bottom), local listings should get a higher ranking. Their address should be verified some way, and should be very visible on the website. If address is verified and later deleted off website = instant ban.
4) Editor should rate the website on a scale of 1-5 or something based on how useful it is for a web-surfer. Tim's hardware shop with his contact info and a picture of the store only would rate a 1 where Home Depot listing 50,000 items would get a 5. 5-star websites would get a higher ranking.
4) Make a premium listing section that puts paying advertisers on top, even the online only ones that are non-local (unless the searcher is requesting local only, then put them at the bottom).
5) Make a premium submission/dispute service that guarantees a prompt and independent review, or allows one to dispute with another more senior editor, or if you need to move to a different section, etc. You can still request these services for free, however they could take a long time. For example lightning fast service/review = $500 (within 2 days), quick service = $200 (within 2 weeks), free service could be 6-8 weeks or more.
6) If user submits using the free method let them know where they are in the queue and an estimated wait time until their site is reviewed. Put in place a system that makes an attempt to get all sub-categories reviewed in an equal amount of time.
I never understand the "so bad" part about a free directory with so many links that back ends Google. For what it costs vs what it produces it's a great thing.
I've found that most people who complain about DMOZ are those who are too lazy to read the submission rules. They get irritated because editors don't add their site where they think it should go or because it takes a couple of months to get feedback. Yeah it has it's flaws but hey it's powered by people and people are flawed.
A new and improved competitor doesn't arise because it's not that easy to rally a large group of volunteers to produce a huge categorized database then maintain it.
Money. As the volume of sites on the web exploded, the number of volunteers needed to build a quality directory becomes extreme. Others have not come along to challenge DMOZ because they don’t have the pedigree and reputation to get the necessary number of quality volunteers. (the critical words here being “volunteer” and "quality")
Now, if you’re talking about a monetized directory, with paid editors then that might be an interesting endeavor. However, you won’t make enough to fund it slapping Adsense all over it, and if you charge people to submit their sites that’s a whole different beast.
|Why doesn't a new and improved competitor to DMOZ arise? |
Because right now no one has figured out how to create a human edited directory, based upon free submission, that scales even a reasonable reputation of the web, and be able to make money doing it.
The real shame in all this is that Google doesn’t provide a few hundred million in funding for DMOZ. Peanuts to pay back to an entity that was crucial to their early existence and development.
All in all an interesting debate because if money was no object, a human edited directory would have a realistic shot at competing with an algorithmic search engine in returning quality results.
I think a new and improved competitor to DMOZ hasn't arisen because most people have realized that comprehensive web directories are an anachronism. They had their time when the web was smaller but their time has long since passed. This is the age of the search engine.
I'm not sure YellowPages.com or Hoovers or any of the various data aggregators would agree that directories are an anachronism.
I don't either.
My view is that there are only so many businesses in the world and indexing and making that data accessible is not beyond the ability of a directory.
Besides, what are SERPs (search engine result pages) if not a directory assembled - on the fly - from a database?
Like others who have tracked "the industry" I whinced years ago at the directory/data providers inability to get up to speed - to get their data online. As best I can tell, despite some initial glacial inertia, they are moving to reclaim the search space.
Do I use the online YP? Yes, from time to time. For example, when I am targeting a service vertical by location. Why? Well, the SERPs are not exactly a thing of beauty when you want to search a vertical, especially by location - though they are improving.
I give Google its props but, unlike many, I've never held that it was the end game of making business connections - which is what folks are doing when they use a search engine "to find a business or service provider". Rather, I've always taken Google's rise as an evolutionary step. Google's oracle-like quality wowed the masses, drew them in and convinced many that "there is no other, no other is needed". Humbug.
Social networking comes along and suddenly business leads are being found or funneled, not through search engines, but by the new word of mouth - referrals from amongst one's network. Just like the old days, only adapted to the medium. (And look at who is rumored to be interested in buying Facebook.) But social networking isn't the end of business lead development. (Sorry if I keep forgeting to call it search, but I'm afraid that "search" may someday be an anachronism, so I'm preparing . . )
Vertical search has been the subject of considerable buzz for the past few years. That's a wide open opportunity, one that is within the means of other players. Then there's local search.
Local search? Don't search engines do that too? Yes, but . . man . . is local search ever ripe for picking by the local folks . . and local players. Cityname.tld? Works in a variety of ways as a platform for community and business lead development and reviews and . . (All these business and sales leads keep leaking outside of the search box. Is that bad? Should we patch the leak?)
Cityname.tld isn't where search ends. What about direct navigation? As the direct navigation market has matured we've gone from generic "take all comers" landers, with the same links on every page, to highly targeted landers. Who woulda thunk! I can search for "blue widget vendors" and find a virtual directory of them simply by typing BlueWidgets.tld or BlueWidgetStore.tld!
There is so much search, so much networking, so many forms of connecting going - so many ways that business leads are being generated - that it's well beyond presumptuous to assert that the business search game is over, that Google has won, and that other forms - such as directories - are no longer a valid model. Any such asserttion, even one that comes close to it is . is . hmm, how can I say this politely . .?
It's not entirely right. ;-P
[edited by: Webwork at 9:05 pm (utc) on July 23, 2007]
|I'm not sure YellowPages.com or Hoovers or any of the various data aggregators would agree that directories are an anachronism. |
I don't consider either YellowPages.com or Hoover's "web directories." You could be in either of those and not even have a website. They are searchable business databases. I think a web directory is commonly thought of as a list of websites listed by categories. And I don't think Google qualifies (except where it uses the ODP).
|You could be in either of those and not even have a website |
Arguably making either YP or Hoovers "more complete" - and a better/more efficient resource - for business search purposes than Google, Yahoo, Ask or MSN.
My point is that there are and will continue to be a great variety of ways to connect with a business, each offering their advantages and disadvantages.
Google is just one small slice of the "connect with a business" pie chart. We should all be grateful for, if not consciously encourage, that diversity of business lead sources.
Perhaps Google's dominance, itself, is a prime reason why a great variety of new sources of developing business leads will continue to emerge?
Doesn't having only one source of anything - including business leads - pose a significant threat to one's survival?
One might think so, as evidenced by the many screams I've heard following a Google algo tweak or change of advertising policy. :(
[edited by: Webwork at 10:22 pm (utc) on July 23, 2007]
If Web users were crying out for general-purpose directories, Zeal might still be around and LookSmart wouldn't be on its last legs.
One of the main reasons a new and improved competitor to DMOZ does not arise is that there is little evidence of great demand for such a directory these days. The vast majority of people seem happy to use the popular search engines such as Google.
I believe most people want to see a full list of search results, not a partial and out of date categorised list that has been filtered by someone (an editor). They want to make their own decision about what to look at, not have someone decide what is best for them.
The holy grail of Google and any system that may wish to compete, is to actually answer the question for a given query. The end game isn’t to provide a list of the best web sites that relate to a keyword, people don’t want the hierarchy … it’s to actually answer the question first and “then” provide a list of citation web sites, just to backup the answer.
Obviously I don’t see much of a future for “any” web site directories, so a more interesting question in my mind is what keeps a community together, one like the ODP that is completely non-profit, on a mission that should be by now, clearly, in doubt. What is the end game or path that keeps such a group going?
|I believe most people want to see a full list of search results |
If that statement is true then why do so many webmasters sweat about being on the first page of the SERPs . . or in the top 5-10 results?
If they see a full list is the first result - or first 10 results - the most responsive or the best SEO'ed?
If that statement is true can you tell me: How many times in the past month have you drilled down into page 20 of the SERPs?
Do you really think, when you see "1,989,700 results" that each one of those results is "the answer" to your query?
I think Google nails it when I'm looking for a needle in the great haystack of the WWW - often, but not always.
When search engines don't nail it, and that's often too, I get to have fun pulling apart the haystack.
I don't quite have the same search experience when looking for a business in the yellowpages, so I'm not entirely certain "seeing a full list" - the haystack - is the reason.
Still, search engines are compelling in their own special way.
|If that statement is true can you tell me: How many times in the past month have you drilled down into page 20 of the SERPs? |
Not very often, but more times than I've gone looking for sites in DMOZ.
Fact is, most people are searching for information on topics, not for Web sites. If I'm Joe Surfer and I want to read reviews of the Widgetco WC-1 DSLR or learn about kayak cruises in Elbonia, I'm more likely to find what I want with a Google search on "widgetco wc-1 review" or "elbonia kayak cruises" than I am by drilling down through a directory.
|Why doesn't a new and improved competitor to DMOZ arise? |
I think that getting enough initial critical mass is one of the main problems. For a general purpose directory as DMOZ is, it takes a million or more website listings to be interesting for visitors, and even when targetting one language or theme, a few hundred thousand listings would be needed to be attractive.
In the Netherlands we have a few volunteer powered general purpose directories that are quite popular. Each of these directories list at least a few hundred thousand sites and relies on between 1000 and 2000 volunteers specialized in the categories they edit.
Onze you have the critical mass to be attractive to visitors (or search engines to be considered as an authority like with DMOZ) highly specialized and dedicated volunteers will come almost automatically. There are always people with a lot of knowledge about specific subjects that want to provide that information for free to others, either in directories of website listings or in on-line encyclopedias like Wikipedia. These are often people without the knowledge or interest to start a website on their own, and they need existing infrastructure to publish their knowledge to the public. Small and/or unknown directories will not as easy attract these volunteers as DMOZ or other well known volunteer driven projects.
So in short: in order to attract high quality editors, you need a directory that is already maintained by high quality editors.
The other reason IMO why it is difficult to start a competitor is funding. DMOZ is running without ads, as is wikipedia. This makes them dependent on the generousity of others, like hosting companies providing them with cheap/free hosting, sponsors to cover the basic costs etc. But because of this business model both DMOZ and Wikipedia are able to attract editors who wouldn't be willing to provide their knowledge for free if they knew there was a big money making machine behind the scenes.
Using a small set (100 as suggested in a previous post in this thread) of paid 8-5 workers won't give the same quality as a volunteer driven project. 100 paid workers can certainly process more submissions and website reviews than the same or even larger group of volunteers. But they don't know what to review. They may have the knowledge to decide if a website is nice looking, navigation is OK, etc, but they can simply not decide if the content is original, or authority. An historian specialized in old Etruscan culture will easily know which sites are bogus and just repeat basic or false information, and which sites are the gems about the subject. But a general purpose editor can only judge based on his feelings about a site, not on his knowledge. So even though that historian may only review 10 or so sites per year, he is for the category "Etruscan culture" of much more value than a paid general editor can ever be. If people want an unreviewed listing of sites about Etruscan culture, they can simply use a search engine and find all the relevant sites on the net. The difference the specialized volunteer makes is his ability to decide which sites have really intrinsic value, something neither a search engine, nor a general editor can do.
In my opinion it is the power if the highly specialized volunteer that makes it difficult for competitors to arise. And to attract volunteers you need critical mass created by volunteers, money is of little value in this process as money is the last volunteers need and may actually scare them away.
I see two likely answers: It's too hard to start over
It's not as bad as many out here think
Personally I'm going for a bit of both.
Starting over is a lot of work, keeping a category clean is a lot more work than many would think.
Anybody with the skills needed can join the effort, so adding to it isn't that hard.
Those stating it's not used due to low traffic, then why are you trying to get in? Ah, the search engines use it. Those same you claim replaced directories. Taking directories like DMOZ away is also literally taking away part of the basis the search engines are using to determine "crap" from "good". Do it and you'll get even more spam in the search engine results.
The main drawback I see for DMOZ is the utter lack of interest in it from AOL, If I were running it my priority would be to find a new home that cared.
I'm with EFV.
|... it's well beyond presumptuous to assert that the business search game is over, that Google has won, and that other forms - such as directories - are no longer a valid model. Any such asserttion, even one that comes close to it is . is . hmm, how can I say this politely... (is) not entirely right. ;-P |
How can I say this politely ;)... but business leads aren't the only result of people's searches. That DMOZ is not a valid model anymore is not the same thing as the SEs being the only game in town. This isn't 1999 and there are a million new ways people reach destinations. In the previous decade people may have used DMOZ a lot to find destinations. That just doesn't happen anymore.
I have a site that has over 300 DMOZ listings. The traffic DMOZ generates for me in a year is less than what my smallest contributing SE (Yahoo) provides in a day. OK, I'm not going to request that DMOZ remove my listings because they may be playing some small, indirect role in my SE rankings but, let's not delude ourselves: DMOZ isn't the first place you go when you need to search for something. For many people it isn't even the last.
The question isn't why there isn't an alternative - it's rather why would anyone be stupid enough to even consider cloning a dodo. (No personal offence to the numerous DMOZ eds here many of whom I have great respect for)
On the other hand, many of the problems with the Internet today are because we are exposed to so much which has not been subject to quality control.
Take a school for example - if they could limit access to sites within a really good directory - it would really help them out.
-- This thread presents the question: IF DMOZ is so bad, as any number of posts have argued, then why hasn't a competitor emerged?--
For the same reason that there aren't many airships any more, it's an out-of-date concept.
Directories have a huge number of problems on the modern internet:
1. There are too many sites appearing, disappearing and changing for any human-edited directory to keep up with even a fraction of what's out there.
2. With a search engine you can look for relevant terms within a site rather than general types of sites. Sometimes references to the term you want appear on sites you'd never have dreamed would carry them, for example discussion of a sports team on the off-topic forum of a site dedicated to cookery.
3. A search engine is so simple: tell it what you want, it goes and finds it. It's a far quicker and easier to use.
4. Not all sites can be neatly categorised because they cover a wide range of topics.
|For the same reason that there aren't many airships any more, it's an out-of-date concept. |
With an Alexa rank of 380, I wouldn't dare to say that DMOZ is an out-of-date concept, I would compare them rather with the Boeing 747 than airships: large, long existent and with a history where no successful competitor apeared. The 747 is flying commercial flights for 37 years and only since a few years there is a competitor starting to penetrate the market, the Airbus A380.
Boeing had a critical mass in the market of large airplanes with the 747 and reaching that critical mass is a difficult task (and in airplane industry really expensive) for competitors. Once there is confidence in a concept, why change to a comparable concent that hasn't proven itself? Airlines were happy with the 747, why switch to another? Volunteer editors (and looking at the Alexa rank, users also) are confident with DMOZ, why switch?
--Volunteer editors (and looking at the Alexa rank, users also) are confident with DMOZ, why switch? --
Dmoz should not exist for the sake of editors, it should exist entirely for the sake of ordinary people trying to find information. Directories aren't a form of self-expression, they're meant to be a useful tool.
The Alexa numbers for dmoz.org are all going down, particularly over the last 18 months: reach, ranking and page views are all taking a steep dive. Its ranking now is 380, but a year ago it was about 150.
--large, long existent and with a history where no successful competitor apeared.--
There was a competitor, it was called Yahoo. In fact Yahoo built its entire business on the directory. And in the 1990s, almost every portal tried to build its own directory, there were loads of them out there.
The fact that Yahoo (along with everyone else) then completely abandoned its directory, despite having literally billions of dollars in the bank, does imply that it's not a viable concept.
This reminds me of that scene in Other People's Money, where Danny Devito's character points out that the very last "buggy whip" (horse whip) factory probably made the best buggy whips ever produced, and had no rivals at all. That still wasn't enough to justify its existence, because everyone had moved on to driving cars instead of being pulled by horses.
[edited by: gibbergibber at 10:54 am (utc) on July 24, 2007]
I am not a dmoz advocate, rather I am keen the directory business, an have been for a while.
I see that directories are going to have to work extremely hard to win the hearts and minds of folk who have been
"weaned" on SE usage an feel that their current habits are necessarily correct or shared by everyone else, or even particularly good for them
There are perhaps 5 major search engines out there
There are multiple thousands of private directories out there, many of whom you will assuredly sneer at as been johnny come latelys, unecessary, un inventive, etc etc etc
However, these thousands of directory owners are spend $100s each an in many cases thousands $$s each to market themselves, they are more likely to offer you money to advertise on your websites than Google , yahoo or msn, who offer you adsense/ypn instead. An this is escalating
Does common sense not suggest that at some point,
10,000 directory owners spending a few thousand dollars each year to market themselves are going to be drawing more an more people to them
So, most of us are amateurs, but i assure you , SE's an directories have a curious relationship. an if you think the owners of the multiple thousands of directories are going to leave the major SE's in quiet possession of the search market,
I suggest you think again,
Get listed in directories, the traffic may be small now, but , there is a growing , infact surging movement to win a share of the search market going on,
As for dmoz, do leave em alone, they are quaint people pursuing their own thing, an soon enough , even google might go elsewhere,
Over the last year, SE's have stopped indexing links from dmoz clones, just check your yahoo/google back link checkers
|The Alexa numbers for dmoz.org are all going down, particularly over the last 18 months: reach, ranking and page views are all taking a steep dive. Its ranking now is 380, but a year ago it was about 150. |
This is not due to dmoz.org, but due to increased traffic to other sites (myspace, youtube etc) and changes in the Alexa algorithm. You can see this if you compare the Alexa data of dmoz.org with webmasterworld.com. These two sites have almost equal rankings and show exactly the same graph. I wouldn't call WebmasterWorld an outdated concept though, although it shares many similarities with dmoz: the content is specialist-volunteer driven and the work-environment for these volunteers is ad-free.
I used the Alexa rank in my previous post to position dmoz.org relative in the global internet traffic, but always take care when looking at the data in an absolute way.
And about your first argument, DMOZ is not there for the visitor. It is there to organize the web in a hierarchical way. If people want to use it, fine, if not, also no problem. But it is the editor who ultimately defines the quality of the directory compared to other directories, so he should be happy in that environment.
--This is not due to dmoz.org, but due to increased traffic to other sites (myspace, yuotube etc) and changes in the Alexa algorithm.--
Erm... ranking means your visitor numbers in relation to other sites.
If dmoz.org doesn't increase its visitor numbers as much as other sites, then it most definitely IS dmoz.org's fault if it slips in the rankings.
As for the algorithm, if you don't think Alexa is a reliable measure of true ranking, why quote it at all?
--And about your first argument, DMOZ is not there for the visitor.--
If that's the general attitude to visitors in DMOZ, (puts on Yoda voice) THAT is why it will fail.
--It is there to organize the web in a hierarchical way. If people want to use it, fine, if not, also no problem. But it is the editor who ultimately defines the quality of the directory compared to other directories, so he should be happy in that environment. --
That's like saying it's the doctors and nurses who define the quality of hospital care, so hospitals don't really need patients.
A long time ago there were 200 websites in the world. It was easy to view them all and categorise them. The 200 became 200,000. It required a few volunteers to do the job. Still possible. The 200,000 became several million with many of them being auto-built and auto-filled with auto-crap. Have the number of editors scaled up proportionately to review this larger internet and weed out the larger amount of trash?
I'm no Google hugger but I commend Google's foresight in placing their emphasise on scalability.
|Volunteer editors ... are confident with DMOZ |
And you think there's possibly a market for another volunteer directory built for the sole benefit of the volunteers?
|And you think there's possibly a market for another volunteer directory built for the sole benefit of the volunteers? |
No, not in my opinion. DMOZ has reached critical mass and until the moment that actions by AOL or DMOZ management cause the current volunteers to leave en masse, the directory will stay active and attract possible new volunteers like a magnet. It's like a black hole, once there is enough mass, it will automatically attract more matter to increase its mass.
I think the problem here is we have different ideas about what "success" means.
If "success" means dmoz continuing to have an active community of editors, then dmoz will probably continue to be successful.
If "success" means being used as a comprehensive guide to the internet by large numbers of people, then dmoz is a failure.
Why doesn't a better DMOZ arise...
Though it is deemed unpolite, I will try to answer with another question: Will Google give the new entity any importance soon?
Google and DMOZ work together as "complementary" in the search process, or better said, Google uses DMOZ in the supply of search results pages in moving up websites.
Of course they give out different results, or better, different and differently assembled results, as in the example below:
My aim is to find a hostel in Rome, and I want to contact the hostel directly, not book through a service.
DMOZ scenario - With a little patience I drill down into the DMOZ categories and I get to
Top: Regional: Europe: Italy: Regions: Lazio: Localities: Rome: Travel and Tourism: Lodging: Hostels [dmoz.org]
the list offered is only of 25 websites of real hostels, with details of their location. DMOZ lists only sites of hostels alphabetically in one category all on the same level, wiping out for me all the booking services and directories of hostels, made for adsense sites and the like, that might or might not be listed in DMOZ upper categories, but not deeplinked at a lower geographical category. Localization (with unique content and usability) for DMOZ is king.
GOOGLE scenario - The results given by a Google search (hostel+Rome, the plural hostels+Rome gives much more diluted results) gives 239 results containing all the DMOZ listed websites and many more not listed in DMOZ (not yet unfortunately, either because they never submitted or because they are waiting to be, and who knows when will be listed) but diluted through many pages filled with booking services according to an algo that takes into account PageRank and other features that the owner/webmaster of a nice hostel in Rome may not have at all considered in preparing maybe using Frontpage the 6 pages necessary for his presence online. Which however will tell me everything I need to know.
That is, Google results may be fine if I want to use a booking service, tedious if I have to sort out only websites of localized hostels. As a user, to choose among 25 hostels might be satisfying, and the user will never know there are 25+ more that are not listed there.
This derives from the very basic difference between Google (or other possible search service based on algos) and DMOZ:
- Google collects and caches every possible PAGE that its spiders can reach, and pages may appear in the results just days after they are created
- DMOZ tries to categorize WEBSITES as a whole, internal secondary pages are not listed unless in very rare occasions either due to an error, intentional or unintentional, of the editor, or because the deep link is for the editor of great value for the specific category. The websites appearing in DMOZ are on the average some years old, having waited at least months to be included, and the very fact of still existing months after submitting is another argument of their legitimacy.
Therefore what can be found in a search engine and in a directory is completely different. The search engine helps the user to find results that are relevant to his search words, and if the user is not competent enough in searching he may get millions of results, while DMOZ will guide the user through narrower categories to where he may very likely find (if listed, this is always the problem with DMOZ) what he needs; but "here is the rub", for will the average user know of DMOZ? to which the reply would be: No, maybe not even 2% of Internet users know DMOZ and those who know do not commonly use it.
This brings my argument back to the beginning. The DMOZ page has nothing in its results that the many Google pages do not have, on the contrary, DMOZ has much, much less than Google. But all the sites listed in DMOZ "Hostels in Rome category" appear in the first pages of the Google results, ergo: DMOZ influences Google results making them better for the user, at least on a localized level. So even if the user does not know DMOZ, the mere fact that the websites of DMOZ-listed localized hostels in Rome are showing in the first pages of Google results may have been influenced by the DMOZ listing. Google does not do this out of affection, as if DMOZ were the last surviving, valuable dodo, but because among the existing dodos it is maybe the BEST. This dodo brings with itself a rich past of committment of innumerable valuable, Web-savvy individuals (ok, there are and have been vicious editors, but perfection is not of this world).
And this would reply to the suggestion of copying DMOZ and make it better. For years maybe Google would not give a clone even if improved greatly the same appreciation it gives to a DMOZ listing, and the fact that currently the Google algos seem to devaluate sites using the DMOZ dumps and all the DMOZ clones is just another argument in favour of the importance of back-links from DMOZ and its uniqueness in the Web community.
The trouble with your scenario is that it assumes Joe Surfer wants to use a general-purpose directory to find a hostel in Rome. In reality, Joe will be perfectly happy to use a tourist-office page about Rome hostels, a page on an independent travel site about Rome hostels, or the Rome page of a specialized hostels directory--any one of which he's likely to find quickly and easily with a Google search.
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