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You could say the Internet is not a phone book, but that is how most people view it. It's logical that people think that way because the Internet is user initiated. It's the user who 'searches' for information.
This is very different than the television where they sit back and are entertained and some commercials are 'pushed' out.
So, the poeople who push junk when someone is looking for other goods and service is doing themselves and everyone else a big disservice.
Why do they do this, because they believe that it's an eyeball game like television.
Waste of money but it's their money.
The question arises from the fact that I believe we may have hit the point of commercial saturation in the paid directories (ODP too). The fact that the price is high to get in almost eliminates anyone except those with a cash flow in their future from their site.
Does John Q "sense" that he's being "set up" with all the "paid" "hand reviewed" stuff? (Exclude the Overto.com results for this argument - that's another thing altogether)
Does John Q. have an innate sense of "fairness" about him that drives him to look for more democratic results?
Has all the "force-feeding" of web advertising made John Q. numb to the stuff that gets presented "at the top"?
As willtell said who cares? If the results are relevant then thats fine. The problem is that at MSN (Look$marts biggest customer) I don't believe the results are up to par. It is a very poor engine to find stuff with....that reflects heavily upon L$.
Yahoo is the opposite. Do you get referrals from the Y? directory? If you said yes then chances are you're an ecommerce type site. Yahoo is a huge online flea market and tons of John Q's go there to find stuff. But once again the results can be dated and the overall experience "carnivalesque".
From a user experience point of view where would you go to find stuff?
1. I think the days of big general directories are passing. As has been mentioned here before, the Web has just gotten too big for them to index. There is a place for at least one big directory - when I get garbage listings on a Google or other SE search I generally turn to ODP as an authority to point out the "war horse" sites on the topic.
The problem is, over time, you become familier with the listings in a directory for your topics so you end up only checking up on things every once in awhile to see if anything new has been added.
2. Yes paid or unpaid commercial saturation is a problem in the general directories. People look too these places as authorities (see #1 above) when they yield dead links and Yet Another Spammy Commercial Site people turn elsewhere.
Maybe the addition of Zeal listings will help Looksmart on this aspect. They need it. Yahoo seems to be de emphisising search and the directory and ODP may be just becoming too big and unmanagable.
From a personal standpoint I do like SE's that also have ODP on hand. And I like topic specific directories. I think the public wants whatever gets them results.