The Mother of All Directories (Wikipedia)

While dot-com firms in the 1990s became known for their directories and attracting advertising dollars, things started changing as a project with the strange initials DMOZ made an impact on the Internet. It was this project that would give the inspiration for Wikipedia.

DMOZ was shorthand for the site’s name on the Internet—directory.mozilla .org. It was started in 1998 by two engineers for Sun Microsystems, one of the powerhouses of the computer industry. Sun was famous for declaring defiantly at the dawn of the Internet, before people could fathom what it meant, "The network is the computer."

Many of the early innovations on the Internet came from Sun, and employees Rich Skrenta and Bob Truel had the idea to create a directory of Internet sites with a radical concept: have it be volunteer-contributed, and openly distributed using a "free license," which meant that users could copy the directory, freely modify it, and edit the listings for their own use.

Would legions of amateur volunteers update and catalog the far corners of the Internet faster than the paid crews of professionals at Yahoo! and other dotcoms? It seemed like a crazy concept. Why should random, anonymous users on the Internet be trusted to work together?

The idea of generating free content was pretty new for the public as well. As the Internet was blossoming, many entrepreneurs and developers were inspired by the free software movement, which had become incredibly popular in tech circles. Free software had as its patron saint a quirky and brilliant man named Richard Stallman, and he was about to make an impact well beyond the small hovel of computer geekdom.

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