Let's look at what is valuable on a software download site. In my opinion:
* categorization (good searching capabilities, related software)
* completeness (contains all software, inluding newest releases)
* unbiased, regularly updated reviews (by people, who really know what they are talking about)
* accessible web (good web design, not too many ads, links to useful resources)
All users and all honest developers want this. As developers, we may have different opinions about the quality of services the software directory must offer to add our software to it. I for example require higher quality when I am adding a freeware application to a directory than when I am adding a commercial one.
Currently, there are 3 types of directories:
1. link farms - all runs automatically, they add any software, sending award badges to everyone and hoping to get some backlinks
2. proprietary directories - owner checks the listed software titles, occasionally writes a review (usually of average quality) for free or for payment (sometimes outrageous payment as is the case with tucows)
3. crowd-sourced directories - owner delegates the review task to the willing crowd; review quality is not guaranteed; reviews do not get paid and their goal usually is to give some love to the software they like, not to write an unbiased review
In my opinion, all of the above types have serious drawbacks. #1 is useless and hopefully dying. #2 is hard to scale, reviewing software costs time and hence money. #3 has scaling problems as well - review quality gets down when the site grows - spam would be a big problem. And let's not forget, that there is still a single owner that can decide to flip the switch.
We need another, better type of software directory that will ensure balance of power. I do not know how to achive it, but here are some concepts:
* contributors (developers, reviewers) must remain in control of their contributions, they must be able to change, delete, deny access to their content
* contributors shall have reputation and fields of expertise
* reviews of low quality (outdated, biased, stating false information) shall be buried
As mad as it sounds, a serach engine + a social network could be the solution. How far is the time when everyone will be able to post a review on their blog and Google will know it is a review of software X? Google (and+) is scary in its effectiveness.