50 coolest websites 2006

Selections from Time Magazine August 2006

25 sites we can't live without

Selections from Time Magazine August 2006


Pandora Type in the name of your favorite band, and within moments the site will be streaming a radio station, featuring songs from that band and others like it, to your desktop through your browser — no registration and no downloads required. You can "tune" the play list by using the thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons. A new Backstage section is a searchable directory of artists and albums — "your door to the music universe" — courtesy of the Music Genome Project.


The 9 Each weekday morning, this vlog delivers some of the greatest stuff that can be found online — video clips, movie trailers, online discussions, blog posts, news stories, quirky websites — as a five-minute streaming videocast. The must-clicks, presented as a countdown and linked from the home page, range from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day to movie-poster spoofs in http://hoffgallery.com/index.php. Honorable mention goes to Rocketboom 2.0, a mix of Daily Show-esque reports, Web news and commentary on Internet culture. For more silliness, head to Ask A Ninja . And stop by It's Jerry Time!, for hilarious, cleverly-animated "true-life" tales.


Number Logic This site offers a hefty supply of puzzles to tackle. Work independently or compete head-to-head against other registered users. There are three levels of difficulty; the site will time you (there's a pause button if you need to take a breather) and, if you wish, "validate" your answers (and highlight any mistakes). You don't have to sign in to use the site — but you do if you want to record scores.


Cute Overload Because sometimes you just need to look at pictures of kittens. Or farm animals. Or hedgehogs. This popular blog provides a daily dose of cute imagery, found somewhere on the Internet or emailed in by a fan. Browse categories ("Pocket Pets," "Cats N Racks") or follow the site's links to more cuteness at sites like Baby Animalz.com and Pandafix .


Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas Here's a place where you can indulge your inner abstract expressionist: move your mouse to splatter virtual paint and click to change the color. To create a hard copy, right-click on the "canvas" and select Print.


Shockwave You'll find a variety of ways to procrastinate here — there are games you can play by yourself, and multiplayer games; flash games you play inside your browser, and games you download. You can browse by category or search by keyword (check out Loop, under Adventure).


Drawn! This collaborative blog, geared to "anybody who likes to draw," is produced for artists by artists for the purpose of sharing links — mainly sites where you can view individual artists' works — and resources. Even if you're not an aspiring Picasso, you'll enjoy the illustrations, cartoons, animated video podcasts and other works highlighted here.


Sundance Splinks This collection of funky, artsy sites compiled by Sundance Festival staff Select images and flash animations (grouped under Watchamacallits, Doohickies and Wigglies, among other categories) and drag them onto a virtual scene — and the fabulously droll Billy Harvey Music.


Photo Muse A joint project by the International Center of Photography in New York City and the George Eastman House in Rochester (the world's oldest photography museum), Search by photographer — listed in the drop-down menu, including Weegee (109 works) and Gordon Parks (40) — or keyword. See: Alfred Eisenstaedt's 1963 shot of children at a puppet theater in the Tuileries, Paris.


Wolfgang's Vault Click "Vault Radio" to stream recordings of live performances of all your favorite rockers from the 1960s and '70s: The Doors, The Stones, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Costello and lots more. Vault Radio plays selected tracks from these concerts in an FM-quality, 128K digital radio stream. Click "In Rotation" to see what's included in the current stream; it's always changing.


Podcast Pickle The sheer quantity of podcasts and videocasts now available make the existence of sites like Podcast Pickle a necessity. The directory boasted nearly 10,000 casts. Browse the Top 100 list or weekly picks to find something worth loading onto your own portable player.


YouTube The network posts teaser clips from hit shows like The Office. Relive treasures such as Journey's "Separate Ways", observe a Great White grabbing lunch or see what folks with too much free time can do with a digicam and a dream. Often, video quality isn't great, and a lot of the stuff is junk, yet somehow we can't stop digging around in it.


Snap This new Google-competitor records and analyzes past searches to help determine relevancy, favoring sites where surfers visited most frequently and lingered the longest. Search results are displayed on the left side of the page, while the other side provides a visual preview (which you can choose to view in small, medium or large). Ask.com offers previews too — courtesy of a little binoculars icon placed next to certain links — and boasts a new Blogs & Feeds search tool too.


Accoona This engine uses artificial intelligence to "understand" the meaning of the keywords in your query in an effort to deliver more relevant results. Drop-down menus allow you to set some search parameters, such as business type and location; run a News search for recent articles, Business search for facts and figures, or a Web search for relevant links. PubSub is also useful; it lets you "subscribe" to a particular search, after which the engine will continue to retrieve new information related to your search as it appears on blogs, in newsgroup discussions or in SEC filings, automatically refreshing your search results so they are ready (one click away from the home page) when you want them.


Pixsy This clever engine extracts images and videos from the RSS feeds of a variety of content providers, from YouTube to the BBC. Click on a source — say, The New York Times — from the "Browse Recently Added" box on the lower right-hand side of the home page, and you'll get a fresh batch of thumbnails, which serve as direct links to the material. Or browse by category to see the latest content to come online. Currently stocking some 10 million items in its searchable bank, Pixsy intends to have 1 billion items in store by year end. As a backup resource, there's always Google Images and Google Video.


Argali White & Yellow Download the free software offered here and you can search multiple telephone directories (Google's SuperPages, WhitePages.com and more than a dozen others) simultaneously. You can elect to pay for a premium version, which delivers results without ads.


Kosmix This specialized search engine scours more than 3.2 billion general web pages and divides its results into subcategories — the Health engine, for example, groups links under treatment, prevention, symptoms, clinical trials and others headings — for more efficient info-gathering. It's also built to deliver more relevant links, by pulling from the part of its index that makes the most sense (it doesn't bother with travel sites if the keyword is diabetes, for example). The specialized health search engine is the farthest along — it graduated from the alpha test phase to beta in February — but Kosmix has been busy adding new subject areas, including Finance, Travel and U.S. politics, and, most recently, video games.


McAfee SiteAdvisor Here you'll find a free downloadable application that, once installed inside your own Web browser (it works with FireFox and Internet Explorer), aims to keep you out of trouble — or, to be precise, stop you from clicking through to websites where spyware, worms, and other cyber threats lurk. The program attaches tiny color-coded icons to links that appear on a list of search returns — a green check means it's safe to proceed, a red X means it's not; a yellow icon indicates nuisances such as spam or pop-ups. Why would you need this? Because simply clicking through to a suspect site can wreak havoc on a PC, and risky sites comprise a growing portion of search returns. If you want a service that will flag for inappropriate content such as porn, try Scandoo.


Kayak A meta-search site useful for planning your next trip. You can search airfares to different cities simultaneously (click "multi-city search"); Fare Watch lets you track any number of trip itineraries and receive email alerts when a fare meets your specified price. Kayak Buzz lists the best fares to 25 popular destinations.


Zillow This site uses tax records, sales history and actual amounts paid for comparable properties in your area to calculate an estimate ("Zestimate") of your home's worth. You don't have to identify yourself or deal with a broker to use the service. Check out the new color-coded "heat maps" of 17 cities that compare Zestimates per square foot by location.


Central Park This comprehensive, interactive guide to one of the world's most famous public spaces offers up-to-date information on 43 different attractions, from the Carousel to the Conservatory Garden, Strawberry Fields to the Swedish Cottage. A model of organization and design, it's a pleasure to navigate.


It rules e-tail, with 34 different product categories (including groceries; new and used cars could be next) yet stays true to its bookstore roots, with nifty features like Search Inside the Book, and the new AmazonConnect, which links you to blog posts from your favorite authors from the home page


The place to go to create your own blog; tools are powerful and easy to use, and it's free


This wildly popular portal of classified ads serving more than 300 cities in the U.S. and across the globe recently expanded its real estate listings, and helps power HousingMaps a mash-up that locates properties for sale using Google Maps. (Craigslist charges fees to real estate brokers in New York and for job ads in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but is otherwise free.)

Drudge Report

Matt Drudge, newsbreaker, got more than 3.5 billion hits in the past year


The auction powerhouse keeps expanding its repertoire, allowing users to write blogs and create wikis (collaborative info-banks), and to "Skype" each other about individual items up for bid (i.e. use the Internet telephony service to place voice calls)


Best all-around sports site, with sports news, sports videos, sports columns and sports data galore. Honorable mention goes to MLB.com, which lets you watch baseball games that aren't broadcast in your local TV market. The service's success inspired CBS Sports to team up with NCAA to offer March Madness on Demand which drew 5 million viewers earlier this year


Picks apart speeches, press releases, TV ads and other public statements by politicians of all stripes to set the record straight


This public showroom for personal pics is one of the fastest-growing social networks on the Web, and now it has a blog


What started as the Web's best search engine has become a jack-of-all-trades, offering all sorts of free applications, from Spreadsheets and Calendar to Picasa (for digital photos) and Gmail. There's Google Scholar, which lets you search for academic papers on any topic, and Google Finance (nice charts!); Google Maps has inspired countless "mash-ups" including weatherbonk.com. Register for a free account and you can personalize your home page too. Click here, for a menu of features and services that have officially launched; go to Google Labs for the new stuff that's still in beta (such as Spreadsheets). The unaffiliated (but lovingly devoted) Googletutor.com has helpful tips and advice for making the most of all things Google. Read more about some of Google's latest-greatest features in the TIME archives.


Easy-breezy explanations of how things work, from money laundering to hybrid cars, game consoles to the human kidneys

The Internet Movie Database

Encyclopedia of entertainment that covers some 800,000 films, television shows and video game titles. Users help keep the Internet Movie Database current, submitting 16 million data bits in 2005 alone


Computer-tech tips and tricks to help you save time, and keep you sane; sister-blog Gizmodo gives up all the latest gadget news. Too mainstream for you? Best to head over to our favorite geek-convention,Slashdot.org

The Museum of Modern Art

Now available: MoMA Audio, a selection of museum tours as downloadable podcasts. Wear your own earbuds as you walk through the special exhibitions or the permanent collection; separate audio tours are available for kids and for the visually impaired.


More than 60,000 DVD titles available to rent, from classics to art-house flicks to major studio releases. Digital delivery is scheduled to start early next year, but don't expect those red mailers to be phased out anytime soon

National Public Radio

Not to miss: NPR podcasts, NPR music, NPR This I Believe, NPR Stories

The Onion

Long before The Daily Show, long before Stephen Colbert, there was The Onion, and it's still hilarious, and now you don't need a subscription to read the fake news archives. Podcasts are also now available

Rotten Tomatoes

Gathers movie reviews from far and wide, and reports box office and other stats; flicks receive a critical average on the 100-point "tomatometer." Movies.com also gets a nod for streaming episodes of "Statler & Waldorf: From the Balcony," an Ebert & Roeper spoof starring those lovable muppet-curmudgeons


New comparison shopping sites keep popping up (Become.com isn't bad) but nothing beats Shopzilla's search tools and merchant ratings


Blog finder that keeps getting better while the blogosphere gets bigger. Searches are faster and more accurate, and now you can personalize the home page; a new Discover section provides a round-up of top posts by topic. Newcomer Sphere is also worth a look.

Television Without Pity

Bitingly funny TV show recaps

The Smoking Gun

Continues to document interesting news (sample headline: "Six Skulls Found in Strippers Home") and get the occasional big scoop, like outing writer James Frey


A real Web wonder: this massive, collaborative online encyclopedia is written, edited, and maintained primarily by volunteers; some 1.3 million articles in English, and millions more in 228 other languages


Arguably Google's toughest competition for top Web property. Check out the new My Web 2.0 service, which incorporates the social bookmarking activities of the recently-acquired del.icio.us (you get to see where other people are surfing, and share your own favorite links). Maps.yahoo.com/traffic offers a visual guide to gridlock situations on major roads in 20 metropolitan areas; Yahoo Photos offers new ways to share images (more advanced search features, tagging and other tools); and the new Yahoo Tech page cherry-picks from CNET's playbook. Earlier this summer, Yahoo partner site fifaworldcup.yahoo.com scored with video highlights and a live MatchCast


Simply the best place to shop for shoes online, with stellar customer service and free shipping all the time.