The worldwide web… it’s big. Like, really big. The strands of the web are threaded between servers across the globe, and a ton and a half of content nestles on those computers. A ton and a half may just be a slight underestimation, too.
But the problem with the web is that while there’s a staggering amount of content out there, there’s also a considerably unfavourable wheat to chaff ratio. The majority of websites are uninspired at best, and rubbish at worst.
With that in mind, we figured we’d use this blog post to take a stroll through some of the web’s choicest cuts. The sites that we’d find it hard to live without, one way or another; or to put it another way, the best of the web.
We’re not talking about the most obvious websites, either. Everyone knows about Google and Facebook, and how useful (or annoying, at times) that they can be. So we’ll skip such behemoths, and try to look towards more hidden gems – although those who are well travelled online will probably have heard of many of our top picks.
At any rate, without any further ado, here are the top 20 websites we find largely indispensable, or hugely entertaining (although they’re presented in no particular order).
The Daily Mash is a spoof news site which does a very amusing line in biting satire. It runs the whole gamut of stories from society to sport and politics, stopping off at other traditional newspapery type places such as horoscopes. Psychic Bob offers up such gems as, “Taurus: ‘Life’s too short to have regrets. Yours is, anyway.’” Well worth wasting ten or fifteen minutes on every week, some of the better comedy efforts on this particular site can hit sublime notes.
So you like games? And clever commentary related to games? Then Rock, Paper, Shotgun is the ideal place to get your PC gaming jollies. Yes, PC gaming… you know, the big expensive boxes you need to keep upgrading, but which sport fabulous graphics (provided you keep upgrading them)? Yes, those are the ones. Rock, Paper, Shotgun offers up stylishly written news, reviews and opinion from the likes of Jim Rossignol and John Walker, among others.
Popbitch may, or may not, be a name you’re familiar with – but you should be. It’s actually a newsletter and website which contains all the latest gossip from the music industry, plus a whole lot of other eclectic stuff. For example, take a look at the Media section, and you’ll find a story on a YouTube video of Withnail & I meets Star Wars – C3P0 voiced by Withnail. Much fun indeed.
Interested in property prices in your area? Then check out Zoopla, which contains a pretty useful historical record of the sales and fluctuations in pretty much any given street in the UK. The site lists a chronological record of sales in any postcode, and also gives an estimate of the current value of a property based on how prices have shifted in that particular area. A very useful tool for house hunters, or indeed nosy parkers up and down the country.
If you’re planning on going to a hotel, or out for a meal, then there’s one excellent resource to be sure to check out. Trip Advisor provides a plethora of generally pretty reliable feedback on guest houses and restaurants throughout the UK. It also boasts information on local attractions, and even photos. Perfect for sussing out where you want to go, before you get there, and avoiding disappointment in general.
Never actually sat down and read Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Well, to be honest, it does go on a bit at times… but it’s still a classic slice of horror and suspense building. And you can download and read it for free at Project Gutenberg. In fact, 39,000 classic e-books are available for nothing at this site – enough to keep you going for quite a few holidays. The books are free because the copyright on them has expired, incidentally.
Want to grab some free software? This is one of the best places on the web to frequent should this be your goal (that and avoiding dodgy “free” software sites where you might get more than you bargained for in terms of malware). Major Geeks boasts a huge range of categories of downloadable software, from anti-virus and benchmarking tools, through to office and video software. It also has a very well trafficked forum which is an excellent place to get advice on downloads, and your computer issues in general.
Want to know what’s good in the world of movies and games? Metacritic rounds up the various reviews of each film and game, averaging the score out and letting you know the general consensus of roughly how good it is. Readers also chip in their opinions and review scores, so you get a pretty well rounded view of how decent something is.
The IMDB or Internet Movie DataBase is a hugely helpful resource when it comes to the world of movies. Every film you can imagine is detailed, with elements such as cast members (all cross-referenced), plot synopsis and suchlike. Films are reviewed and rated, and the IMDB also does a good line in movie and celebrity news.
Pinterest is, it must be said, one of those flavour of the month websites which is very big at the moment – but it’s well worth a look. If you’re not familiar with it, Pinterest is a social photo sharing site that allows users to show off their snaps, and “pin” any images they appreciate, creating their own collections. Pics range from the most tempting cherry cheesecake the world has ever seen, to a forlorn looking baby owl (say “ahh”, now…).
Not a site for those stuck up the proverbial tree, but one for those who fancy picking up some second hand bargains. Yes, eBay is the obvious stop, but if you want to look for a local bargain – one you can drive round to, actually see in the flesh, and pick up without worrying about postage – then Gumtree is well worth a look.
13 Hot UK Deals
As the name suggests, this is a site where you can ferret around and hopefully pick up a bargain or three. The various deals on offer span a range of consumer goods, and are rated in terms of their “heat” – in other words, the interest generated. A very lively community isn’t afraid to chip in with comments on exactly how good they think the various offers are.
Found a foreign web page, perhaps an obscure product which is only reviewed in German or Japanese, for instance? Then you can swiftly translate it using Google’s site. It’s possible to paste text directly in and translate, or just enter the URL of the website. Either way, this is the top online Babel Fish when it comes to translation.
Want to know the price of something in dollars converted to pounds? We’ve always found XE to be a reliable and accurate yardstick when it comes to currency conversion. Just pop the number in and click, it’s as simple as watching the pound inflate away as the Bank of England struggles to keep the country from economic implosion.
Epicurious is a site that no online cook should miss out on. It contains a huge array of recipes, including food which is quick and easy to make, and healthy to boot. In fact, there’s a healthy eating guide, a range of articles, and a massive community which rates the top recipes. Don’t browse here when you’re hungry, though… that’d be a big mistake.
17 Good Reads
Want some inspiration on what to read next? Then Good Reads is an excellent site to visit, with a lively community, and a host of book recommendations among a wide selection of genres. It also provides extra trimmings such as trivia, quizzes and quotes.
Take a trip to Blastr for all your sci-fi news needs. From movie news to TV stuff, it’s all here, plus Blastr often runs some highly amusing and imaginative articles from time to time. Well worth a quick jaunt to stay abreast of the latest in sci-fi.
Dropbox offers free, cross-platform cloud storage, with up to 2GB of space, plus an extra 500MB for every referral you make (up to an 18GB maximum). Boasting simple sharing and wide coverage across all major operating systems on computers, tablets, and smartphones, it’s an excellent little back-up and storage option.
Well, we had to take the time to get a quick plug in, didn’t we? Do keep coming to Techwatch for all your tech news needs – your presence is much appreciated.