• U.S.

50 Best Websites

7 minute read
Maryanne Murray Buechner, Tara George, Bill Syken and Susan Gregory Thomas

We know what you’re thinking: Where’s Amazon? Where’s Yahoo? Rather than waste ink telling you about the sites you’re already familiar with, we decided to ferret out the terrific websites that aren’t yet household names. Our master list covers everything from Animated Shorts to ‘Zines, including some new sites and a few overlooked ones. And we didn’t completely snub the better-known greats–you’ll find a string of them along the bottom. Even Amazon.

–ANIMATED SHORTS ICEBOX www.icebox.com/icebox/new_showcase.html Reopened for business and ready to dish out some good anime. Creators of shows like The Simpsons offer cartoons such as The Elvis and Jack Nicklaus Mysteries (the King and Golden Bear as a crime-fighting duo). First episodes are free; 25[cents] to 40[cents] a pop after that.

–BANKING BANKRATE.COM www.bankrate.com Comparison shop for certificates of deposit, atm fees, home and car loans, and more. The site collects financial data, which it sorts geographically, so you can find the best and most accessible deals.

–BASEBALL BASEBALL PRIMER baseballprimer.com/clutch A lively weblog devoted to the national pastime. Posts the latest news (from trade rumors to think pieces on Jason Giambi’s hitting philosophy). Visitors pitch in with their comments.

–CAR SHOPPING CARSDIRECT.COM www.carsdirect.com The end game of most car-buying sites is to push you into the arms of a dealer. But at CarsDirect.com you can select a make and model, compare rebates and incentives, configure vehicle specifications, arrange financing and make a payment, all in one fell click.

–CIVIC GUIDE GOVSPOT.COM www.govspot.com Excellent gateway to a host of useful government and civic sites. Check your Social Security benefits. Find out how much your neighbor paid for that house five years ago. Learn how to change your name. Remove yourself from junk-mail lists. E-file your taxes.

–CONSUMERS’ REPORT EPINIONS www.epinions.com Magazine reviews are fine, but sometimes it’s helpful to read the opinions of everyday people who have to deal with the products every day. Epinions’ buyer reviews offer you just that–from the mouths of complete strangers.

–DOING GOOD NETWORK FOR GOOD www.networkforgood.org Finding a way to be of service can be a full-time job, but thanks to this site’s Volunteer Search, you can easily connect with a nonprofit that’s near you and needs your skills. A special section highlights timely crisis-relief efforts.

–DVD RENTALS NETFLIX www.netflix.com Rent movies by mail for a flat monthly fee ($20). Keep flicks as long as you want before returning them in postage-paid envelopes. The site lets you watch trailers and read reviews before you add titles to your wish list.

–EVENINGS OUT CULTUREFINDER.COM www.culturefinder.com Useful for planning evening entertainment when you’re out of town. Get listings and program schedules for theater, dance, classical music and opera events in more than 1,500 U.S. and Canadian cities. You can purchase tickets via telephone with a credit card.

–FANTASY LEAGUES SPORTSLINE.COM fantasy.sportsline.com A robust set of tools for fantasy-sports players is what separates this from the rest of the sports-sites pack. Join a league to match managerial wits with other webbies, or host a private, customized competition.

–FREE GAMES FLIPSIDE www.flipside.com Play your favorite games against others. Flipside features traditional pastimes, from bridge to backgammon to blackjack. Die-hard game addicts will also want to check out Pogo.com and Yahoo Games games.yahoo.com)

–FUNNIEST SITE THE ONION www.theonion.com Dead-on deadpan satire of current events (MILITARY PROMISES “HUGE NUMBERS” FOR GULF WAR II: THE VENGEANCE) and pop culture (BOOK-CLUB MEETING DEGENERATES INTO DISCUSSION OF OSCARS). Warning: not for the irony impaired.

–GENEALOGY ROOTSWEB.COM www.rootsweb.com Everything one needs for researching a family tree, including a free database of 181 million ancestor names.

–HEALTH HUB WEBMD www.webmd.com Hard to beat for basic medical info. Get the lowdown on the condition that ails you, locate a doctor in your area. You can also check out the drug and herb directory for the latest news and discoveries. Or consult MayoClinic.com

–NET RADIO SPINNER www.spinner.com The free player program is a snap to download and easy to customize, with plenty of channels to suit any musical taste, from new indie and mod punk to bossa nova and jazz. (Owned by AOL Time Warner.)

–NEWS AND DISCUSSION FARK.COM www.fark.com Links to the day’s strangest, silliest and scariest news stories posted on the Web, with message boards inviting users to comment. Lots of fun.

–OVERSEAS-TRAVEL HANDBOOK U.S. DEPT. OF STATE www.state.gov/travel Even when the U.S. isn’t at war, it’s a good idea to check whether the government has issued any travel warnings for the country you’re headed to. The site also posts global crime rates, traffic reports and hospital ratings.

–PARTY PLANNING EVITE www.evite.com Take the headache out of organizing potluck dinners and other casual get-togethers. Send out snazzy e-mail invites, post maps and directions, and keep track of R.S.V.P.S. (Not recommended for weddings or formal dinners.)

–PC AWAY FROM HOME GOTOMYPC www.gotomypc.com For a monthly fee ($14.95 or $19.95, depending on length of contract), this service lets you access and remotely operate your work or home PC from any Windows computer with a Net connection. Try it for free for 60 minutes online or 30 days, whichever expires first.

–PEOPLE FINDER CLASSMATES www.classmates.com Locate former school sweethearts and chums by designating the school you attended. Registration required but free.

–PHOTO SERVICE OFOTO www.ofoto.com Share your snaps online by mailing in a 35-mm roll or uploading your digital images. Do some minor editing and order Kodak prints at decent prices.

–RARE BOOKS ALIBRIS www.alibris.com Virtually no out-of-print book is out of reach for Alibris, an emporium of rare, first-edition, foreign and otherwise hard-to-find volumes.

–RELIGION BELIEFNET www.beliefnet.com Thank God: Here’s a multi-faith community open to talking about whatever’s on your mind or in your soul without proselytizing. Religion shopping? Key your credo into the Belief-o-matic to find the closest-fitting faith.

–SHOPPING BIZRATE.COM www.bizrate.com Comparison shop online for everything from apparel to electronics to housewares. BizRate.com also provides user-submitted ratings of merchants. Also check out DealTime www.dealtime.com).

–TECHSPEAK EXPLAINED WHATIS.COM www.whatis.com Plain-English encyclopedic explanations of all things tech, from general computing terms like broadband to the more obscure jargon you come across in product manuals.

–TUNES OF THE TRADE SPUN www.spun.com Think of it as a fantastic music store, minus the crabby clerk in the Ramones T shirt. Buy new and used CDs, DVDs and games; exchange your old goods for store credit. If something isn’t in stock, Spun will e-mail you when it arrives.

–TV CRITICS TELEVISION WITHOUT PITY www.televisionwithoutpity.com It takes some time to read through each snarky episode recap of popular TV shows like Dawson’s Creek and Ally McBeal, but you’ll find yourself sucked in by the critics’ love-hate relationship with the programs they spend so much time analyzing. You’ll also laugh out loud. The site was formerly known as Mighty Big TV.

–URBAN LEGENDS SNOPES www.snopes.com Was a bound pair of hands found atop a building near ground zero? (Yes.) Were a bunch of 9/11 domain names registered before the attacks? (No.) Urban-legend hobbyists David and Barbara Mikkelson debunk non-WTC myths too.

–WORLD NEWS BBC news.bbc.co.uk If international news is your bag, the Brits do it best. In-depth articles on what’s happening around the globe, plus cool multimedia features. Coverage of the U.S., in partic-ular, is worth a look for the BBC’s detached perspective.

–‘ZINEs SALON www.salon.com A fresh blend of news and features, from Washington politics to counterculture book reviews. Some articles (including adults-only fare) require subscription, but the comics are free. When you’re done, you can head over to Slate www.slate.com for more.

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