A Web directory staffed primarily by unpaid volunteer editors.


The first large-scale volunteer directory, NewHoo, now the Open Directory Project, capitalized on the growing perception that existing directories were not keeping pace with the growth of the Web. Volunteer directories operate under the premise that a little time added by a large number of editors will provide more hours and a greater range of expertise than a relatively small group of paid editors.

The Open Directory is still the most prominent volunteer directory. The free usage license makes it an attractive directory provider for many other Web sites. However, just as the Open Directory Project (OPD) was created in response to perceived problems with Yahoo, several directories have emerged in response to the perceived problems with the ODP.

Zeal launched a directory that was innovative in several respects. Member’s efforts were initially rewarded with donations to charities, gaining some of the goodwill needed to attract an unpaid staff. Zeal has also made openness a priority. All listing decisions and discussions are available for anyone to see. However, Zeal was bough by Looksmart and appears to be subservient to the parent directory.

The volunteer directory model has been proven successful for gathering a large listing of sites. The biggest challenge is the ongoing maintenance and refinement needed to achieve cohesive results. Volunteer directories have often been charged with lacking organization and consistency, and internal bickering and politics are also cited as major problems.

Despite the challenges, volunteer directories remain vital resources, especially with the trend towards paid inclusion at the the professional directories. A listing in is arguably the most important link money can’t buy.


user-contributed directory

Related Terms

Web directory

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Open Directory Project : Volunteer-Edited Directories


Growing Pains At Volunteer Directories
Search Engine Watch (March 3, 2000)

New Volunteer Directory Seeks Zealots
Traffick (August 21, 2000)