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A web directory is not a search engine and does not display lists of web pages based on keywords; instead, it lists web sites by category and subcategory. Most web directory entries are also not found by web crawlers but by humans.The categorization is usually based on the whole web site rather than one page or a set of keywords, and sites are often limited to inclusion in only a few categories. Web directories often allow site owners to directly submit their site for inclusion, and have editors review submissions for fitness.

Most of the directories are very general in scope and list websites across a wide range of categories, regions and languages. But there are also some niche directories which focus on restricted regions, single languages, or specialist sectors. One type of niche directory with a large number of sites in existence, is the shopping directory for example. Shopping directories specialize in the listing of retail e-commerce sites.

Examples of well known, general, web directories are Yahoo! Directory and the Open Directory Project (ODP). ODP is significant due to its extensive categorization and large number of listings and its free availability for use by other directories and search engines.[2]

However, a debate over the quality of directories and databases still continues, as search engines use ODP's content without real integration, and some experiment using clustering. There have been many attempts to make directory development easier, such as using automated submission of related links by script, or any number of available PHP portals and programs. Recently, social software techniques have spawned new efforts of categorization, with Amazon.com adding tagging to their product pages.

Directories have various features in listing, often depend upon the price paid for inclusion:

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