Remember DMOZ (Wikipedia)

So the long story of Richard Stallman, free software, Linus, Minix, and Linux brings us all the way back to DMOZ.

What did this mean for the DMOZ project?

By 1998 open source software had shown it was a viable competitor to commercial software in terms of quality, something people had not expected from a widely distributed band of volunteers. This inspired people to try the same "free" licensing not just with computer code, but with actual Internet content.

DMOZ was originally started by Skrenta and Truel with the moniker Gnuhoo, a hybrid name that paid homage to Stallman’s GNU project and the dominant Yahoo! directory. The idea was to create a directory of Internet sites maintained by volunteers who would participate not because their additions would benefit one company or one person’s wallet, but because they would benefit the public at large. This was the hacker ethos again: making information free to allow it to improve more rapidly.

But this was not writing computer code or making technical changes. It was the first large-scale content project of its kind. Contributing required no expertise or tech skills. If you knew of a Web site, and it wasn’t in the directory, you could add it yourself.

As the DMOZ project grew in prominence and volunteers, it took off rapidly, formally donning the title of the Open Directory Project. "Open" became the word of the decade: open source software, open content, open formats, and open standards. They all had at their heart the ideas of sharing and the freedom to modify.

Wales was an early Internet user, and remembers when he first ran into Stall-man’s ideas:

When I entered graduate school at Indiana University, which must have been 1991 or 1992, I was given an account on a UNIX machine and started doing data analysis. I was getting up to speed on UNIX stuff and happened to open up emacs and read the emacs manifesto.* My first thought was, "Wow, what a strange idea." But over time I started to see the sense in it and gradually went from a skeptic to an enthusiast.

When he saw that the same "free" idea could be applied to content, he sensed an opportunity for Bomis. While the company was already providing directory services that it maintained itself, the Open Directory Project was much larger and was updated much more rapidly. Bomis decided, like many other online portals at the time, to start using ODP content. Copying the directory information was completely allowed by a copyleft license (even for commercial use) under the Open Directory license. While Netscape Communications Corporation formally owned the copyright to the ODP content (having acquired it in October 1998), it was "freed" with a clause in the license:

Netscape grants you a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, modify and create derivative works from, and distribute and publish the Open Directory and your derivative works thereof, subject to all of the terms and conditions of this Open Directory License.

Rather than just reproduce ODP content verbatim, Bomis tried new things with the directory information. Their own "ring" technology was injected with more sites, and they would find more interesting niches.

Wales describes Bomis’s next breakthrough as "a ‘guy-oriented search engine,‘ with a market similar to Maxim magazine." Some of its more famous creations were the Bomis Babe Report and the Bomis Babe Ring. Advertising was the Web site’s most prominent form of revenue, though they did also manage to create a paid service called Bomis Premium, which had adult photo content for a monthly fee.

Bomis was doing well enough to hire more employees over the next few years, growing to about eight at any given time. By January 2000, Wales was looking at new projects for the company to conquer.

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