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25 web sites to watch for > I June 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet.

What’s tomorrow’s YouTube? The Web’s next breakout hit may be one of these innovative, useful, and fun new sites.

Think that all of the great Web sites have already been invented? Think again. The Internet is evolving in new and inventive ways thanks to mashups that pull data from all over the Web and to AJAX-based interfaces that give sites the same degree of interactivity and responsiveness that desktop apps possess.

To keep you ahead of the curve, we’ve rounded up 25 innovative Web sites and services that are well worth watching. Some of them help you design your own personalized Web site mashups; others enable you to create video mixes, build wikis, share personal obsessions, and more. But take note: A number of these sites are works in progress, and user-generated sites depend on developing a critical mass of content, which doesn’t happen right away. With that in mind, check out the following dot-com destinations. One of them may become the next big Web hit. Mashups, Maps, and More

Build your own Web feed, poll friends and strangers, and find your way with these tools.

If you haven’t already discovered the world of mashups, Microsoft’s Popfly is a good place to start. Mashups combine multiple Web-based sites or applications to produce all sorts of useful things, such as an overlay of traffic information over Google Maps. With Popfly, you can create your own mashups–and you don’t have to know a lick of code to do it. Just drag prefab building blocks, connect them, and you have an instant mashup that you can add to an existing Web page or turn into its own site. For example, you can easily produce a mashup that grabs pictures from a site like Flickr and then displays them in a rotating cube.

Yahoo Pipes
Like Popfly, Yahoo Pipes lets you create your own mashups or “pipes.” As with Popfly, you drag and drop prebuilt modules, and then create connections between them. But Yahoo Pipes is much harder to use than Popfly, and the way to go about building your own mashup isn’t always obvious. But if you’re willing to do some digging and learning, you can build very useful stuff, such as a mashup that uses Yahoo maps to show the locations of all apartments for rent in a certain neighborhood.

Are foreign movies better watched with subtitles or with dubbed dialog? Is it okay to cry at work? Who is the best center fielder of all time–Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, or Ken Griffey, Jr.?

If these are the kinds of issues that keep you awake at night, we have a Web site for you. BuzzDash lets you participate in, comment on, and see the results of numerous quick opinion polls. The polls are organized by topic, such as movies, football, and politicians; and if you have a burning question you want answered, you can create your own survey.

If you’re obsessed with cartography, wander over to Wayfaring.com. Here you can easily create personalized maps for a walking tour of London, say, or a wine-tasting trip through Napa or a pub crawl through Seattle. The site provides the tools you’ll need to build annotated maps–complete with descriptions, Web links, and photos of your favorite stops–and then post them for others to view and discuss. It’s fun to check out the maps other users have created. One of my favorites: a map of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, including links to Web sites that discuss each wreck.

Anyone who has ever tried to organize an event–or to get a group of people to respond to a simple question like “Who can drive the kids to Little League this week?”–knows how tough it is to filter and organize the answers into coherent, usable form. That’s where CircleUp comes in handy. Use this site to send an e-mail or instant message to a group of people; then wait for it to return a consolidated summary of responses to you. It’s simple, it’s free, and it will liberate you from the recurring feeling that you’re herding cats whenever you try to coordinate an activity involving more than two people.

Organizers, Searchers and Optimizers

The Web has so much information that it’s hard to keep track of everything. These sites will help you pull content together and move around the Internet more efficiently.

The Web is just as chaotic as the world–but Pageflakes can organize both of them for you. This super-customizable version of a home page enables you to pick the news and information feeds you want to read, and to specify the “flakes,” or applets, you want to include. Flakes let you add all sorts of cool stuff to your page–movie times, to-do lists, a notepad, e-mail, a horoscope–even sudoku or a personal blog. If you’re looking for one-stop browsing, this is it.

If you spend more time than you should googling folks, you need to check out Spock.com, a search engine designed to dig up information about people. Start by typing in a name, or a search term that describe a group of people–for example, Motown Singer, or Rastafarians. The site then searches through various social networking sites such as MySpace and Friendster, along with more-general Web sites, and reports on what it finds.

For many searches, you’ll get multiple categories of links. For instance, type in Barack Obama, and you’ll get groupings like ‘Democrat’, ‘Senator’, and ‘2008 Presidential Candidate’. Click any link, and you’ll find pages related to both Obama and the larger category. There are also links to photographs, tags, Obama’s Wikipedia entry, his Senate site, and so on. Spock is currently in beta form (its public launch is scheduled for sometime before September), and at the moment you need an invitation to gain access to it, but with luck you can wangle one by filling out the form on the site.

Data and graph fanatics, you have a home. Swivel, holds a mind-boggling array of charts and graphs–from a line graph illustrating the relationship between wine consumption and crime in the United States over the past 30 years to a pie chart showing the percentage breakdown of bird flu cases in 14 Asian countries. But the site’s most outstanding feature is its ability to integrate different charts containing seemingly unrelated data. Want to compare the national murder rate to the cost of a first-class stamp, or to total hours of media use in U.S. households, over the same period of time? Now you can.

The Internet is the best research tool in existence. That’s the good news–and the bad news. Though finding information online is easy, keeping track of it all can be tough. Most people end up copying and pasting information from Web sites, printing it out, or bookmarking pages–with no good way to keep it all organized or find what they want fast.

Clipmarks solves the problem neatly by installing a toolbar that hitches on to Internet Explorer or Firefox. As you surf the Web, use the Clipmarks toolbar to clip and save sections of a page–text, graphics, and even YouTube videos. Clipping something automatically archives it under your Clipmarks profile, though you can also save it directly to your blog or send it via e-mail. You can even share your clip collections, or look at archives that other users have assembled.

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