Remember directories? I do.

Since search engines took over directories such as the former Yahoo, the internet has grown exponentially. While search engines are obviously great, they lack certain distinct features of a directory:

  • Discovery
  • Adjacent topics
  • Categories
  • Curation
  • Rich descriptions

Today, everyone seems to have discarded the idea of directories. They are deemed as unscalable, old school, too subjective. But those user curated link lists made a huge comeback in another setting without you realising it: The App Store.

App Stores share many, if not all of the characteristics of the original directories. Their “featured” sections are highly curated, they feature categories and they’re born out of a desire to filter the signal from the noise and focus on quality. Notably, the also have a search interface – but on the web, we lost the more prominent part.

And that is unfortunate. There’s a strong need and desire for highly curated, even categorised content on the web. Search engines utilise clever algorithms to rank pages to your search queries and interests, but to me, they will never be able to match a human recommendation, in particular from humans I trust.

I argue the web needs a new kind of directory. Crowd sourced, curated and categorised. Something similar to The Wirecutter, but broader in nature. A reddit, but better designed and more open, less niche. Working hand and hand with search, not against. An entry point to the web for my most trusted pages. A living, ever changing recommendation engine. A home screen.

There are challenges: Making it inclusive enough, fighting spam, maintaining objectivity (why is “the best” of something the best?). But I challenge you to find solutions to these. I believe it can be done.

And I’ll be the first user.