The Best of the Web (courtesy Time)

Around this time every year, I eagerly wait for the annual specials from Time Magazine, be it the person of the year or the numerous other specials like the top 10 technologies of the year, top 10 films, etc. Dubbed as the ‘best and the worst lists’ they give a unique perspective on how the year has passed and what has been the high or the low points. But besides these, I really look forward to the world’s top websites listings. The reason is not all that hard to guess, because in it you will finds one of the best gems of human ingenuity, web ideas that were always there in the making except that no one did. This year’s list (,29569,1918031,00.html) is no different, there are scores and scores of ideas that not only seem worthwhile (to use) but also great (to emulate). So here are a few chosen gems from the Time 50 list of best websites for 2009. If you desire more, log on to the Time site and check the complete list.

Now, I know Tripit as an application in LinkedIn, have often seen my network friends listing their travel with it, what I did not know was that it is much more than a LinkedIn app, it is a web-portal, where you can put in all the travel related documents, for instance flight insurance number, hotel reservation desk, etc. and then access it over your phone or Web in case of need. How often when we land in a new place on not find a car from the hotel, hunt desperately for the hotel’s number here and there. All this could be saved on Tripit and easy accessed on the cell. And then, there is the social networking or rather the LinkedIn aspect as well, bumping into an old friend, who might be travelling to the same place via Tripit.

If you need something specific in your place or region, whom do you ask  — your friend or Google? Well, Vark takes it to search to that level. The idea is simple, why query a bunch of machines that can only understand meta tags and evaluate keywords, when you can pose the same to your friends. SO, next time you want to know where to find the best Mango Kulfi, don’t Google, Vark it by synching your FB contacts, so the question will be sent to your network only and no more. Now, what should we dub it as; social search?

Late Friday evening, you popped but the workload hasn’t. After much struggle, you finally take a call, no use trying to fight it, will have to work over the weekend so might as well as go home have a drink and start afresh tomorrow. Now, the real struggle starts, all those excel sheets and PDFs will be required tomorrow, and you start hunting for a pen drive. There is one, but it doesn’t have enough space and the last thing you want to do is sit there and sort files out there to make space. Sending it to the mailbox is another option, but the long time it takes to attach a file usually results in a timeout. So what’s left? Well you can just drop all of it at and access it later. It is an online repository that not only lets you store like Usendit but also lets you collaborate and share, all in a few clicks. Now that an idea, we were waiting for.

You must have heard about magazines and then portals, now there are digimags. With Issuu, you can view a digital representation of your magazine, and what more you can make one yourself. Considering that reading vertically, as in a website is no fun, digimags can be a great way to do so. Would be sharing the IT Next magazine link very soon.

All of us are born astronauts, though 99.9% don’t grow up to be one. Yet, the vast space continues to enthral us all. Now you can watch the wonders of space sitting on your comp, thanks to World Wide Telescope, a project that lets you take virtual tours of space, view stars and planets within context to each other, view the entire solar system in 3-D with light and shadows created from the sun, or watch planets orbit around the sun, and moons orbit around planets. WWT lets the astronomer in you to come alive again, whether you a scientist or a student.

Heard about reverse engineering, well this is reverse cooking so as to you. The idea is simple, all you have to do is key in the ingredients you have in your kitchen e.g. rice, carrot, etc. The site will suggest recipes that you can create from them. For best results, add all the ingredients you have at home. The catch here is that it all ‘angrezi’ food, so I am waiting for an Indian to be inspired by this idea.

Etymology is a very interesting subject, it basically means the history and evolution of words. Visuwords is a visual dictionary that lets you see words in a three-dimensional flow-charts sort of a way through spheres. I remember Britannica used to have these spheres in their CDs. Nonetheless, chose a word and then go exploring spheres around it, you can never tire of learning it this way.

Every day, when you sleep in your bedroom, there is a couch in the living room that is vacant. The idea is to let the couch out to a fellow traveller and so Couchsurfing was born. CouchSurfing is a worldwide network for making connections between travellers and the local communities they visit.  All one has to do is register on the website and then offer a couch or request for one. So far the site claims to have provided over 1 million successful surf or host experiences . Couch surfing is not only a great way to save money but also make friends and learn about culture.

Before going to a film, how often do we go online and check the reviews. And not only that, we tend to check multiple reviews just to get understand whether the film is good enough to blow a few hundred bucks or wait for the friend to share it on a pen drive. So, for all those who depend on the critic’s opinion, here is Metacritic, basically a conglomeration of all critics. especially good for films and albums, ranging from Ebert (my favourite) to NYT. So next you want to catch a Hollywood film around, check Metacritic.

What Worldscape Radio was to Radio, Last.Fm is the same to Internet Radio. In fact, it goes beyond merely offering music stations of choice, it even recommends music to you based on your choices. So, when I punched in U2, the site recommended Coldplay, REM, Passengers, Simple Minds, the Police, and others. Or when I punched in Anoushka Shankar, the site recommended me:  Ravi Shankar, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Amjad Ali Khan, Ananda Shankar, Zakir Hussain, Amjad Ali Khan, and Prem Joshua Tabla Beat Science. And all this for free, though there is a paid subscription model as well. But at $3 a month, man it is still a steal.

Like the Time Traveller in HG Well’s Time Machine, one can go back in time on the cyberspace thanks to the Wayback Machine at Sometime back when I had met and interviewed the founder of the website, Brewster Kahle in charmed office in Presidio, SF, he had mentioned that this was the Library of Alexandria being remade again. And indeed, every time, I visit the site the audio, video and images that are constantly being added keeps growing. It is one of the most magnificent concepts ever to go online. And yet, my favourite still is the wayback machine, because with it I was able to find the articles and posts that I had written back in 2000, which I had given up as lost.

While looking at Etsy, only one thought kept crossing my mind; this is a concept for India. Etsy is the Ebay for arts and handicrafts, an online marketplace for artistic stuff. You can find plethora of things here, right from paintings to coasters and you can also customise things to your needs. Imagine a place like this in India, where you can order Warli painting or Kathakali masks over the Web. I am so so tempted to start this venture myself; any keen partners buzz me up.

There are so many times that we come across great lectures or presentations at various events and so wish there was a way to go back to them. Well, there is one now, as, runs a website that gathers the web’s largest collection of unmediated video drawn from live events, lectures, and debates at universities, think tanks and conferences. The choices are really esoteric, for instance check these:
Patti Smith: What I Learned from Ralph Nader
High priestess of punk still believes ‘People have the Power’
Krugman: Cap and Trade Like a ‘Transformative Technology’ THE HUDSON UNION SOCIETY
Comcast CEO: Twitter Changed the Culture of Our CompanyWEB 2.0 SUMMIT and O’REILLY MEDIA

In a world that is gradually getting virtualised by the minute, it is just a matter of time before we will visit conferences virtually. Dimdim lets you do that in the most efficient of ways possible, without having to install software at your end. Not only that it allows users to launch meetings in a matter of few clicks and is extremely flexible, available in hosted and onsite configurations and easily customizable. Also, there is an Indian angle to it as well, the CEO and founder of the company is DD Ganguly and CTO Prakash Khot, so all the more reason for us to take pride and use it extensively. This is a great tool for the enterprise and the individual as well.

Of all the websites that were listed by Time Magazine this year, my personal tops was Academiaearth, a place where you can find the topmost professors in the planet giving lectures. The site has Free video courses from leading universities.  In fact there were as many as 20 New Courses from Yale, Stanford, and Harvard on topics like Economics, Philosophy, Literature, etc. Watching all the lectures, one is almost transported into those hallowed classrooms of Stanford and Harvard. Some of the one I like were from Prof. Ramamurti Shankar  and John Randolph Huffman. There is a catch though, it streams from the website directly, and I haven’t been able to download it as an .FLV or .AVI file. But I am still trying, if you find a better method let me know.

Till now there was Google and then came Bing and now both of them married each other at Bingle. Bingle gives results from both the search engines, side by side, so that you can compare and select what you like. Of late, there has been some appreciation for the algorithm of Bing, so probably this could be a good way to test it out. Will Bingle become the verb of the future? Well, I don’t know, and who could have said the same about Google a some 6-7 years back.

One thought on “The Best of the Web (courtesy Time)

  1. Thanks for the superb review & insights !!

    I plan to dig into some of these sites over the weekend.


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