Subject Directories – You’ve come a long way, baby!

Remember what the Yahoo website looked like 10 years ago? No? Just go to “The Wayback Machine” and you can pull up an archived version of their page. A sample is here (right). Remember how Yahoo “attempted” to organize web sites into categories. First you would start in a subject area like Science … then click on a category like Astronomy … then finally to a huge listing of websites?? Takes you back huh?

According to Bare Bones 101:

Subject directories, unlike search engines, are created and maintained by human editors, not electronic spiders or robots. The editors review and select sites for inclusion in their directories on the basis of previously determined selection criteria. The resources they list are usually annotated. Directories tend to be smaller than search engine databases, typically indexing only the home page or top level pages of a site. They may include a search engine for searching their own directory (or the web, if a directory search yields unsatisfactory or no results.)

Today, the line between subject directories and search engines is blurring. Most subject directories have partnered with search engines to query their databases and search the web for additional sources, while search engines are acquiring subject directories or creating their own.

For example, look at these 3 versions of Yahoo:

One of the best subject directories out there is the Open Directory Project The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors. From their website:

The Open Directory was founded in the spirit of the Open Source movement, and is the only major directory that is 100% free. There is not, nor will there ever be, a cost to submit a site to the directory, and/or to use the directory’s data. The Open Directory data is made available for free to anyone who agrees to comply with our free use license.

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.

Subject directories are best for browsing and for searches of a more general nature. They are good sources for information on popular topics, organizations, commercial sites and products. When you’d like to see what kind of information is available on the Web in a particular field or area of interest, go to a directory and browse through the subject categories.

Some other subject directories to check out:

Next up: Portals …

Comparision of Search Engines

Search Engines  

More information from Search Engine Watch





(maintain their own database of websites)




(search the database of other SE)


Subject Directory


(organized by categories)




(subject directories serving as home pages)


Library Gateway


(maintained by Librarians)


Subject – specific database


(focused on one topic)



Open Directory Project




Library of Congress


Librarians Index to the Internet


Internet Public Library




Internet Movie Database


Roller Coaster Database (blogs) (jobs) (medical) (cars) (travel) (shopping)


Effectively searching on the Internet

I just began my unit on “Effectively searching on the Internet” this week with my middle and high school students and I want to share a wonderful resource I use. Bare Bones 101 was originally created in 2000 by Ellen Chamberlain, Library Director at the University of South Carolina Beaufort campus. It is now being managed and updated by Melanie Hanes-Ramos.

I use the lessons on Bare Bones 101 to introduce the concept of search engines to my students. The lessons do a great job of explaining what is a search engine, how to search engines work, what is the difference between a keyword and Meta search engines, how do subject directories work, who maintains library databases and subject-specific databases and explains search strategies. The lessons are very clear and easy to use and give links to many search engines and short activities to search and compare results.

We all love Google and probably will also go there first, but my students are finding some nice feature to other search engines. They are worth checking out so I will highlight the features of one type of search engine in each post. Individual Search engines compile their own database of web pages.

Ask debuted in 2001 and was purchased by Ask Jeeves later that year. Although it supports only limited Boolean searching, it has recently added an advanced search page with improved searching features. Ask also offers a new approach to displaying search results by putting them into what it calls Web communities: Results (relevant web pages), Refine (suggestions to narrow your search), and Resources (links to collections of experts and enthusiasts).

On the main search of Ask, you can search for web, images, city, news, blogs, video, maps, shopping. You can also choose your own skin. My students loved this feature.

  • A drop down listing of other keywords appear when you type in the search box
  • Displayed on left panel of the search results are ideas on how to narrow or expand your search and related names.
  • Unfortunately, there are sponsored links at the top of the results page highlighted in a very light blue box – hard to tell the difference than regular result.
  • The right panel may show a sneak preview of results from images, Wikipedia, event listing, dictionary, video, time, etc – it depends on your keyword.
  • Move your mouse over a small binocular and it displays a mini-version of the homepage of your results.
  • AskEraser is a new privacy feature from When AskEraser is enabled your search activity will be deleted from servers (except in rare circumstances).

Overall, my students really liked Ask. They loved the preview with the binoculars and skins. I like that it give you ideas on how to broaden or narrow your search. Here is the link to all of the features of Ask.

Some other Individual search engines worth checking out: