Something I knew about for a while has finally hit the airwaves, Zeal.com is closing. I was part of LookSmart’s Editorial Management team in 2000 when Zeal was acquired. We thought it was a great idea because it allowed the directory to scale. Whereas ODP was a bit of a free for all, the differentiation of Zeal was the editorial oversight. We thought the two ideas, openness and oversight, blended well together. But as time wore on and the Zeal executives who came with the acquisition moved on to bigger roles, LS lost interest in the directory and peeled away resources to work on other projects. Zeal was left to die on its own.
When I first heard this was going to happen I was a bit bummed out. A lot of people, community members and editors, had put a lot of work into Zeal. The LS directory in general got a bad rap because it was part of LS and because people who write about search love to tell everyone how directories aren’t used by anyone. But, IMO, that’s because it wasn’t properly used. It’s a perfect example of a non-search search company not supporting a product that could have had niche value. It could have been truly integrated into blended search (mixing directory and algorithmic results) or in today’s environment it could have been an interesting foundation for a tagging system or social networking site. It already had morphed, in essence, into a folksonomy in that it was built by many people. But instead of trying to make it into a valuable resource LS pursued other goals and left behind what had been the foundation of the company.
To read more:
On the Search Lounge Guest Obituary for Zeal, by Alice Swanberg
Ontologista They are shutting down Zeal
Search Engine Journal Looksmart Closes Zeal, Concentrates on Furl.net
Search Engine Watch LookSmart’s Zeal Directory To Close
The Information Literacy Land of Confusion The End of the Zeal Directory