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Finding the Best, and Most Popular, Web Sites

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In just a decade, the World Wide Web has grown from a physicist’s research project to a gargantuan marketplace contributing hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs to the nation’s economy.
Three billion Web pages, according to market research firm Cyveillance, are now out there for your perusal. Some are more surf-worthy than others.
In recent years, a number of organizations, publications, and Web sites have made qualitative designations of the best Web sites. Such designations are necessarily subjective and sometimes idiosyncratic, but useful nonetheless.
If you’re looking for specific facts, you’re best off drilling down directly with a search engine such as Google. But if you’re browsing categories of information, you’re often better off surfing to sites that have been chosen as the best, by someone, than clicking to sites listed by portals such as AOL, Yahoo, or MSN. Sites may be prominently listed by portals solely because they have business relationships with the portal, not because of the quality or comprehensiveness of the site.
Here’s a roundup of some of the top outfits that have selected top sites. Exploring these selections can be useful not only for perusing the content available, but also (if you’re creating a Web site) for getting ideas.


“The Webby Awards”
Awarded by the 350-member International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, the Webbys are the Oscars of the Internet. See who won this year in the 27 categories, from commerce and science to activism and music, at http://www.webbyawards.com.
The Webbys also has a populist component, the People’s Voice Awards. This year, more than 100,000 surfers voted for their favorites.


“Best of the Web”


The editors of PC World magazine (the most widely circulated consumer-oriented computer magazine) identified what they consider to be the best 64 sites in 32 categories, including career information, Webmaster tools, health, and entertainment. Check out their recommendations at http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article.asp?aid=17178.


“The Top 100 Web Sites”


The editors of PC Magazine (a biweekly publication targeted toward computer professionals) also published their choices of the best Web sites, in this case 100 in 20 categories, from small business services to lifestyle. Read all about it at http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/stories/reviews/0,6755,2394453,00.html.


“Readers Rate the Web”


More than 3,000 technologically savvy readers of PC Magazine Online chose the 53 best Web sites in nine categories, including investments, banking, shopping, and travel. Read their choices at http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/stories/reviews/0,6755,2643490,00.html.


“101 Most Incredibly Useful Sites”


Yahoo Internet Life (an Internet “lifestyle” magazine) identified what it considers to be the 101 best sites in nine categories, from home and shopping to mailing/shipping and automotive. Investigate further at http://www.zdnet.com/yil/content/mag/0007/useful_main.html.
Each month, the magazine also publishes a list of “Gold Star Sites” in a particular category. Recent categories include e-business, health, getting expert advice, trip planning, and finding a job. It’s all at http://www.zdnet.com/yil/goldstars.


“The Top 100 Family Web Sites”


The editors of FamilyPC (a magazine targeted toward home computer users) selected what they consider to be the best sites in 36 categories, including parenting, genealogy, food and drink, beauty, kids, and seniors. You can find out more at http://familypc.zdnet.com/learning/reference/feature/100websites.


“Web Business 50/50 Awards”


CIO magazine (a computer publication for Chief Information Officers and other business people) recognized 50 business-oriented Internet and 50 internal intranet sites for excellence in the categories of business-to-business, business-to-consumer, small company, startup, and nonprofit. Read who won at http://www.cio.com/archive/070100_awards.html.


Other Sources for “Best Sites”


In addition to the above, there are lots of Web sites that select “best sites.” The Open Directory Project—an effort spearheaded by Netscape and now a part of America Online—lists 184 such sites at http://www.dmoz.com/Computers/Internet/WWW/Best_of_the_Web, including 93 sites that offer award designations and 32 sites that review other sites.


The “Most Popular” Sites


Though popularity and quality don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, you may also find it useful to uncover the “most popular” sites, as a whole and in given categories.
Nielsen/NetRatings, at http://www.nielsennetratings.com, provides lots of statistics about the Web, including the top 10 Web properties in terms of usage (“properties” encompass multiple sites owned by the same company).
Media Metrix, at http://www.mediametrix.com, offers a listing of the 50 most popular Web properties in the US and globally as well as a listing of the 500 most popular sites.
PC Data Online, at http://www.pcdataonline.com, publishes a list of the top 100 Web sites and the top 50 Web properties, according to the “reach” (the percentage of the total Web population that visits a site) among other criteria.


Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book “Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway.” He can be reached at reidgold@netaxs.com or http://members.home.net/reidgold.


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