Unfortunately, it appears that LookSmart is closing the Zeal Directory. An announcement on the Zeal message board notes, "Thank you for being a part of the Zeal community and contributing your time and knowledge to the Directory. After trying to put the deserved resources behind Zeal, we have made the conscious decision to shut down Zeal.com. On March 28, 2006 Zeal will no longer be available. We are not selling Zeal.com and have no future plans for it at this time. "
This is too bad. Zeal was an excellent resource for finding good quality information on the web. The Zeal community was lively, interested in doing quality work, and helpful to newcomers. The tools for editors were first rate and made editing at DMOZ and Joeant appear Byzantine in comparison.
Clearly, web directories are not as valuable as they once were. Google is much better at finding information than any directory. However, I still use directories to find good sites. There is still value in them. And I think user contributed directories like Zeal, DMOZ, and Joeant are the best type to use. I point them out to students in every library instruction session I teach.
For Zealots looking for another community to contribute at, I would recommend Joeant or Illumirate. Both communities are small with instant feedback on editing. People will help you learn the community. DMOZ may also be worth a try but it is much larger, the editing is not intuitive, and the community is highly political. Many new editors are simply overwhelmed and give up. Take it slow if you are allowed to edit at DMOZ and ask for help if you need it as unsolicited advice is not always forthcoming.
Maybe directories are not worth contributing to anymore. Perhaps social bookmarking at sites like del.icio.us or Furl is the way to go? I am wedded to the past and I will stay active in a web directory or two. I enjoy it. But I realize the heyday of directories is over and my web editing only really helps me to keep my own cataloging skills sharp.
I hope LookSmart eventually sells Zeal to someone who will reopen it and allow the community to participate. (Maybe a university or library should acquire it?)