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GnuHoo Wants You






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JUN 18, 1998 - A couple of months ago, a San Francisco programmer named Rich Skrenta was getting frustrated with Yahoo: Its links were rotted all to hell, and it was slow to add the sites he submitted. "Clearly they were neglecting the maintenance of their directory," says Skrenta, "apparently in favor of doing other 'portal' features like classifieds, chat, and co-branded Visa cards... It was about two months ago when we realized that the only way to make a scalable web directory project was to open up editing and review to the Net." Hence GnuHoo, a web directory assembled by a distributed, self-regulating community of volunteer editors rather than the (relatively) small staff of paid professionals who create directories like GnuHoo's evil twin.

There's no screening process. If you want to be a GnuHoo editor, you've got the job: Just pick a category and dive in. Skrenta and cofounder Bob Truel decided that "individuals who care about the topics they maintain would be better reviewers than generalists, and the directory would get better as the Web grew, instead of getting worse." The site's been live since June 5, and it's up to 200 editors and 27,000 sites in 2,000 categories. Not bad, considering what it cost.

Scalability GnuHoo has in spades, assuming the recruiting process doesn't plateau out, but quality control? Skrenta allows the possibility that the public will abuse the trust he places in it. "Clearly there will need to be a hierarchical oversight and review system... No one has built anything like this before, so we expect to have to overcome some difficult but interesting problems as we grow." He's not quitting his day job just yet, but he's not ruling it out for the future. "I think that GnuHoo will have to become some kind of commercial enterprise if it's going to fulfill its mission. Yahoo has 100 servers for their site, and GnuHoo's goals are to be much, much larger."


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