10 Essential Sites
Despite repeated attempts to compromise its integrity, Wikipedia remains the most popular online encyclopedia on the Web. Since anyone can create or edit a Wikipedia page, both companies and individuals have been caught airbrushing and embellishing their own entries.
A haven for armchair investors and money junkies, Yahoo! Finance has everything you need to keep up with business – news, stock-specific research, charts, even press releases. For all the criticism about Yahoo!’s failure to innovate, its finance site showcases the best of what the company has to offer.
In the $15 billion online classified market, Craigslist is a Web pioneer that will never go stale, and remains the essential site for want ads ranging from real estate and used furniture to jobs, romance and one-night stands. Its services are available in over 500 cities in 50 countries.
ESPN is synonymous with sports. Die-hard fans come straight to this megasite for scores, schedules and analysis, then hang around for the video highlights, games and podcasts. Over the past year, ESPN has beefed up its fantasy sports league offerings and high school football coverage.
If it’s a restaurant, shop or business, it’s probably been reviewed on Yelp – an independent site with millions of user-submitted evaluations. Yelp’s got a gaggle of rivals – most notably Yahoo! Local – but it’s the only one that lets reviewees talk back.
If MySpace is a PC, then Facebook is a Mac. The former may have more users, but the latter is classier and cleaner in design. Facebook also makes it super easy to find people you know, and it has won more fans among professionals and the thirtysomething crowd. The site has more than 30,000 add-on applications.
Say you stumble across a news story you like. You “Digg” it, by clicking a link at the end of the story. The more people who Digg the same story, the higher it rises in the popularity ranking on Digg.com, where other Diggers can read and comment on it.
Much more than a search site, Google has become the Microsoft of the tech world. Google Docs offers free spreadsheets, word processing and presentations. Photo-based Google Earth now operates inside a browser plug-in, no longer requiring a lengthy download to your desktop.
There’s no better way to spread gossip than to put it online. Sure, it’s tacky, rude and unreliable, but TMZ is the most popular gossip site on the Web because it is chock-full of juicy celebrity tidbits, photos and videos.
Digital photo-sharing sites have come and gone, but Flickr has remained. It offers some of the smartest tools for managing your ever expanding picture collection – from Photostream, which lets you scan your pics quickly, to a newly added video tool for pro users (who pay $25 per year).
50 Best Websites 2008
The site collects real-time prices from some 750,000 volunteer price “spotters,” who send in daily updates from their local stations.
There’s a reason no one ever reads the instruction manual. Ho. Hum. That’s why the video how-to site Howcast is such a gem.
Shoppers post photos of items they like, then solicit opinions and comments from others.
Omiru doesn’t just tell you what the fashion trends are – it helps you figure out what actually looks good on you.
Visitors can take simple quizzes to get a general sense of whether they might have a problem.
In the hotels it covers, TripKick, launched in May 2008, tells you which floors are best and which rooms to avoid.
WikiTravel keeps a concise, current directory of nearly 20,000 destinations. It’s so complete, you’ll be tempted to skip the guidebook altogether.
Advice is everywhere on the Web, but nowhere is it more accessible than at Yahoo! Answers
Zeer displays the nutritional labels for every kind of packaged food you can buy, then lets users rate and comment on their favorite items.
AfriGadget, a site dedicated to simple, sustainable inventions in Africa.
AskMen dishes out provocative tips on sex, dating and relationships.
Devoted to black celebrities, it regularly features A-listers like Rihanna, Usher, Denzel Washington and Alicia Keys.
Although it does not delve as thoroughly into science and treatment as the other sites, Health.com does a better job of addressing the related emotional issues.
PopSugar is a total delight – an emporium of celebrity, fashion, beauty and even tech news for young, style-conscious women.
The site scours news from TV and the Web (including Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, and the NFL Network), then adds its own highly entertaining (and highly opinionated) spin.
Rate My Professors
Students can anonymously grade profs on everything from how difficult they are to the clarity of their lectures – and now teachers can add rebuttals of their own.
Join foodies for your fill of culinary news, discussions, recipes and restaurant reviews at Serious Eats, an international food blog to which “Molto” Mario Batali sometimes contributes.
Covers key topics from design tips for your new home to advice on merging financial assets, to preparations for having a baby.
Geni turns family tree-building into a collaborative effort: the free site gives you the basic tools for diagramming your ancestry, and it also lets you invite others to contribute.
Immerse yourself in panoramic views of Yosemite National Park; Chiang Mai, Thailand; and San Francisco using MapJack.
Mint pulls information from all your online financial records, including your 401(k), bank accounts and credit-card accounts, then neatly graphs your cash flow and expenditures.
It may be the plainest comparative-shopping site on the Web, but we like NexTag because of its speedy, comprehensive search results and integrated product reviews.
Type in up to six names you like, and Nymbler will suggest dozens of similar-sounding suggestions, thanks to an ingenious calculator that uses phonetics to give you fresh ideas.
Aimed at novices, it lets you crop borders, zap red-eye and add a range of special effects – like blurring, tinting and heat-mapping – to any picture you upload.
Jazz up your Mac, PC or iPhone screen with custom-designed wallpaper from Pixelgirl Presents.
An engine that displays results not in the usual text-list format (that’s so Google), but as a slick image gallery of actual Web pages you can flip through and filter results by topic.
If you want to cut a seemingly infinite URL down to size, head to TinyURL, plug in the long version, and voilà! Out pops a unique shortcut to use in its place.
Launched in May, this new site simplifies online party invitations and RSVPs.
To stay hip, visit Urban Dictionary, which has millions of user-submitted words and definitions.
Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project
Add some truly cool alternative oldies to your music collection – the site has a compilation of about 8,000 songs from the early 1900s.
Hulu houses dozens of current shows from Fox and NBC, like The Simpsons, House and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, as well as hundreds of golden oldies like The Bionic Woman and Fantasy Island, all under one roof.
Imeem is the first streaming-music site to secure song rights from all four major music labels (which are rumored to have a stake in Imeem) so you can immediately start listening to most any title you type in.
The Web is a gamer’s paradise. Kongregate is our current favorite for its fabulous arcade of free Flash games (most of which tend toward the testosterone-laden shooter and action genres).
Ffffound is the rare image site that showcases photos and illustrations you’ll actually want to browse every day. It’s both random and beautiful and never feels stale.
The problem with buying kids’ books on the Web is that you can’t flip through them before checkout. Lookybook changes that by posting the full contents of hundreds of children’s books online.
If you’re tired of the sloppy, mawkish sentiment that is the stock-in-trade of most mainstream greeting cards and e-cards, then you’ll want to visit someecards. One thing this site won’t give you is the warm fuzzies.
No distractions here. What you’ll get is a sudoku lover’s Utopia with thousands of games ranging from “easy” to “evil.” A sudoku tutorial explains the number game to newbies, and power users can download a version of the site to play off-line.
The best online comics are those geared toward tech-savvy nerds (i.e., people who don’t read Peanuts or Cathy). We especially like Penny Arcade for the way it pokes fun at the high-tech industry and the people who love it.
A kind of Internet carnival, Gaia Online combines chat, games, discussion forums and a virtual world to make it the most popular teen hangout on the Web. Discussion forums are the heart and soul of Gaia and get half a million posts each day.
Vie to go green by making it a competition. CarbonRally posts challenges, like cutting your shower time by two minutes or line-drying your laundry for a month, to motivate you to reduce your carbon footprint.
Although the site caters to design professionals who want to show off or share ideas about color and pattern, it’s fun for lay people too. Browse through the various swatches, palettes and patterns to help inspire your next creative project – or your next clothes-shopping trip.
Showcasing one-of-a-kind style statements, like an egg-carton lamp and a kitchen wall dotted with bundt pans, this site is for anyone who appreciates distinctive décor.
If you want a glimpse of the Federal Government’s historical records, Digital Vaults gives you a curated view of 1,200 of the most impressive holdings. That includes gems like Swedish-born Greta Garbo’s application to become a U.S. citizen and a document detailing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s real-world little house on the prairie.
The site challenges you with word quizzes and pledges to donate 20 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Programme for each definition you get right.
Urban style hounds check HypeBeast every day for the latest news on limited-edition sneakers, hats, jeans, shades and other coveted bling. HypeBeast is fun just for the window-shopping.
You don’t have to give away money to support a good cause. At Kiva you can make a small loan instead. A unique peer-to-peer lending site that focuses on microloans, Kiva lets lenders pledge funds – from $25 and up – to entrepreneurs in developing countries.
Fashionistas with no time for real window-shopping can fire up their browser windows and sift through the racks at Net-a-Porter instead.
Open Source Food
Anyone can submit recipes to Open Source Food, and members can rate them. Contribute 10 or more highly rated recipes, and you’ll be designated a “pro.”
The Web’s largest pet-adoption site lets you choose from more than a quarter of a million animals, searchable by age, location and gender. Each listing includes at least one photo and tells you whether the animal is house-trained and has had its shots.
WikiSky is a stellar place to start stargazing. Its gorgeous images of comets, galaxies and nebula – many of which come from the NASA-funded Astrophysics Data System at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics – are accompanied by short scientific explanations that will delight astronomy buffs.