Let’s face it, Yahoo! stinks as a Web directory

When David & Jerry first morphed their shared bookmark project into the Yahoo site, it was way cool. Enter any topic at all and there’d be a bunch of Web sites to explore. Submit your site, and a day or two later there you’d be, in the same lists as The Big Dogs. But in the subsequent growth of the firm and expansion into being a media behemoth, they’ve left the dog in the car without a window cracked.

And, sadly, Yahoo is becoming more and more irrelevant in the search engine space. A disappointing fate for one of the true trailblazers on the Web.

This rant comes about because I was checking out the listings under the Unix / Solaris category. Half of the sites no longer exist, redirect to new URLs with new names, or have changed topics entirely. But, like a cold sore :-), the Yahoo listings stay forever.

It’s not entirely their fault because one of the fundamental challenges of online Web site directories is keeping everything current. The bigger you are, the more of a problem this is. But, still, even if they have a million entries, you wouldn’t think it’d be too much to test the URL with a simple ping once every 3-6 months, would you?

And while I’m on the topic, how come they don’t ever seem to list new material at Yahoo either? Most of the Internet and Entrepreneur mailing lists I’m on agree that it’s not even worth submitting Web sites to Yahoo any more. If it’s a non-commercial site, the listing is ostensibly free, but the submission system warns “it may take three months or longer to be added”. On the commercial side, they offer a fast-track evaluation process where for $199 (or thereabouts) they promise to evaluate the site within a week. They don’t promise to list it, just to have a look. For $199? Sounds like a big-time rip-off to me, particularly as Yahoo becomes more and more irrelevant.

Google has seen this happening too, so they introduced their hierarchical browser, which isn’t much better, but at least with the powerful Google engine underneath it should – theoretically – be less likely to get out of date. Since it’s dynamic, though, there’s also the never ending game of site spammers versus the Google algorithm to deal with. Is that World Cup Soccer site really about soccer? Why not let your 8 year old boy find out by clicking on the link?

Most of all, though, I just wish there was an up-to-date web directory of submitted entries, rather than crawled entries. Surely someone must be looking at this problem, because finding good content online is harder than it’s ever been…

And, finally, a glimpse of the past: Yahoo.com as it looked in 1996. Ahhh… the good old days. No pop-ups, no flashing banner adverts, no Java applets sucking the life out of your computer… just content.

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