Back in 2000, Google launched it’s second most important service: Google Directory. It was released to compete with Yahoo Directory, the most popular Web directory at that time.
As by that time Google wasn’t in the position to obtain a massive number of data in a short term, they initially signed up a partnership to use data from Netscape’s Open Directory Project as well as DMOZ. But they also added an innovative feature: automatically ranking results.
At that time, there were an editorial control on the listed sites as I discussed in my Italian article Google Directories proved to be useful.
However, most directories were literally obeying to their name, so they were ordering results alphabetically from A to Z. And as we learnt along the time, not all the web sites offers the same results in term of quality (so they weren’t), therefore, what was the point to have a crappy web site starting with the letter A ranking first?
Google solved the problem, mixing up static entries frrom their partners with their algo.
Now that the Web has a lot more than a trillion pages, it’s impossible to maintain a directory, so search engines are the only scalable solution.
So Google once again solved the problem: they shut down their service.
Seriously speaking, who do really care about this? I’ve not been entering in google directory since 2006, and if it wasn’t for some blog posts, I wouldn’t probably been able to notice the difference.
Beside any commercial and financial decision, I strongly believe google did the most opportune choice, assuming they re-routed the engineers behind the directory into some other department (possibly not Google Labs, as it has been shutted down too).