The Best Website Directories

A search directory is not a search engine. Do not let the similarity of the search fields fool you. When you search a search directory, you search an index hand picked by a living and breathing human being like you and me. When you use a search engine, on the other hand, you search a database inventory gathered by software based robots that travel the net, indexing the text of the webpages they find.

The indexes of directories like Yahoo and Pandia do not contain the content of the webpages they link to. Instead they give you the title of the website and a short description. Furthermore, Yahoo and the Open Directory only contain some 2 million sites. That is nothing compared to giant search engines like Google and MSN.

So why are the directories useful? The key word is relevance. The search engines give you thousands of hits, including webpages of -- well -- dubious quality. The sites listed in the search directories on the other hand will normally hold a minimum standard.

Moreover, the directories are useful when you just have a general idea of what you are looking for. It is better to find the "renaissance art" category in Yahoo and explore the net from there, that to search for "renaissance art" with the Fast search engine. Fast will list any page that includes the term, even if its main topic is not Leonardo and Michelangelo.

In the directories, however, you are guaranteed to find websites with a lot of information in the field of your choice. These sites will in turn contain links to other sites specializing in this field. Below we list some of the best search directories.


Yahoo is the mother of all search sites, and by far the most popular. It is easy to use, and lists sites of high quality. If you are searching for a broad topic and you want a few good results, Yahoo! is the place to go.

David Filo and Jerry Yang created the Yahoo Directory when they were students at Stanford University in 1994. Originally, it was nothing more than their list of bookmarks -- their own favourite sites. The lists grew longer and longer, though, and finally they created a database that was made available on the Web. The site became enormously popular, and in 1995 they turned Yahoo! into a full-time business.

Today, Yahoo! has a lot of editors that consider sites for inclusion in the Yahoo index. Businesses normally pay to their sites considered for inclusion.

When searching Yahoo! Directory you will find that it will feed you results from the Google search engine if it does not find what you are asking for in its own index. Yahoo! also has a search directory for kids called Yahooligans! and includes everything from radio news to online auctions. The search directory continues to be the main attraction, though.

As Yahoo! does not include the content of the websites listed, only the title and a short description, there is a rather limited selection of advanced search features.

Please note that the regular Yahoo! search engine found at does not search the directory. You must use the search form found at to search the directory.

The Open Directory

The Open Directory Project (ODP) started out as GnuWho, then NewWho, an alternative to Yahoo! edited by volunteers from all over the world. It was acquired by Netscape in 1998, but remains an open -- i.e. free -- index that any site can use. At the time of writing it contains 5.3 million sites and 590,000 categories and has about 72,000 editors.

The large number of editors ensures that the index is up to date, and there are few dead links. It has been argued, though, that the large number of editors means that the quality of the site selections may vary from category to category.

Nevertheless, Open Directory Data are used by a large number of sites, including Netscape, HotBot, Dogpile, AOL search, Lycos and Pandia.


About is different. Really different. While most search directories give you a site title and a one line description, About gives you in depth site reviews, articles written by specialists, and links to the best sites on the net. It is a directory, a magazine and an encyclopedia in one.

About -- formerly know as the Mining company -- has got over 700 guides covering most topics of interest. Each guide is devoted to a single topic, allowing the editor to focus on his or her field of expertise.

About remains one of the better directories. The fact that they use frames and pester you with pop up ads and emails, makes it harder for us to recommend them, though.

Note: This is an archived article published under pandia's resurce section. Written by Per and Susanne Koch.