Another development in the search and directory industry has been one which is diametrically opposite to Overture in terms of process and business model.
DMOZ (also called the Open Directory Project or ODP) is, according to the website, the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors It provides the means for the Internet to organize itself. As the Internet grows, so do the number of net-citizens. These citizens can each organize a small portion of the web and present it back to the rest of the population, culling out the bad and useless and keeping only the best content.
ODP has over 3.8 million sites, 56,429 editors and over 460,000 categories. It is the most widely distributed data base of Web content classified by humans. Its editorial standards body of net-citizens provide the collective brain behind resource discovery on the Web. The Open Directory powers the core directory services for the Web’s largest and most popular search engines and portals, including Netscape Search, AOL Search, Google, Lycos, HotBot, DirectHit, and hundreds of others.
At present, according to Business Week, Yahoo boasts the biggest audience, Overture the most advertising, and Google has the leading search technology. The stage is set for a battle royal, with Microsoft as the dark horse. Microsoft Research has been looking at ways to improve search, according to News.com:
While search tools exist today, a major focus of Microsoft’s research will be to allow for a freer flow of associations between data and to expand how searches can take place. Currently, data on computers is largely stored in a hierarchical fashion: A picture or document gets a file name and is stuffed into a folder. To find a document, people largely hunt and peck, a technique that also gets used on search engines.
People, however, don’t think that way, Rashid said. To find a vacation shot from Australia using newer tools, for example, a person could ask a computer to pull up pictures that feature an ocean background or family members. A search engine inside an application would then comb through the visual images to get matches.
“The problem with hierarchies is this conceit that all knowledge has a place, but no single thing fits in one space,” he said. “They become very cumbersome.”
Microsoft’s “Sapphire,” another lab experiment, exemplifies the difference. The application lists associations with a word in a document. Scroll over a person’s e-mail address, and Sapphire will pop up a balloon listing the person’s instant message address, work title, recent publications, and lists of e-mail exchanges and meetings you’ve had with this person.
Tomorrow: A Personal View