Top 100 Web Sites--A to Z
Business & Commerce
Entertainment & Interests
News & Sports
The following are excerpts from PC Magzine's (July 1996) "Top 100 Web Sites" story. The actual site (updated every 100 days) can be reached at http://www.pcmag.com/special/web100. The 26 mini-reviews that follow are the parts of the July '96 story that were written by myself.
Loading up American Airlines' Web site is just like being behind the reservations counter--except for the endless lines, heavy luggage, and screaming children. The site offers a wide array of options, ranging from viewing seating charts to actually booking that flight to Hawaii. Information on tour packages, fares, the frequent flier program, and airport arrivals is instantly available--American even provides a digital version of the in-flight magazine. The site's balance of power and convenience make it a handy resource for any traveler.
Book Stacks Unlimitedwww.books.com
The 400,000 titles of BookStacks Unlimited may not quite match up to Amazon.com's million titles, but this site still has plenty to offer. In addition to searching Book Stack's large inventory, you can ready the daily journal, stop in at the site's digital café, or even browse the virtual shelves by subject or author. BookStacks' cozy interface will draw you in--maybe even convince you to drop that mouse for long enough to crack open that novel you've been meaning to get around to.
A CD Superstore on your Web browser, CDworld is similar to CDNow in both concept and size. Like CDNow, CDworld boasts 165,000 titles, as well as thousands of movies and laserdisks. With special sales, featured artists, competitive prices, and quick delivery (and no lines!), CDworld can save you a trip to the record store.
DBC Online provides all you need to bring Wall Street to you--with stock updates (delayed 15 minutes; a premium is charged for real-time quotes) as well as the latest financial and world news. DBC's service even allows you to build your own portfolio, tracking the progress of your favorite stocks. As an added bonus, a separate page tracks the latest sports news and scores, in case you need to keep track of the really important stuff.
Internet Shopping Networkwww.isn.com
Two fun activities--going to the mall and surfing the Web--come together at the Internet Shopping Network. It's is a one-stop source for computer products galore. The site's friendly interface and large selection make it a pleasure to pick out the latest electronic goodies.
From cookies to cookware to comics, MarketplaceMCI has got it. This venture is not one superstore, but rather a mall. It features a collection of independently-owned and operated Web stores, each with its own specialty. Whatever you're looking for, one of many varied stores at this Marketplace is sure to deliver.
What movie should we see tonight? At MovieLink, not only do you get the typical array of movie news, gossip, and previews, you also get 777-FILM, the online cousin of MovieFone. After selecting a city, you can browse by theater, title, or genre, with complete and current movie times. Once you've made the big decision, tickets are just a few mouse clicks away, and they'll be waiting for you at the theater. Sorry, but you'll still have to wait in line for the popcorn.
Where would a computer junkie look for new toys? On the Web, of course. This simple reality is what gives sites like NECX Direct the incentive to be as good as they are. Once you're there, browse by category, "what's cool," or just type in what you're looking for--chances are, they'll have it, along with a photo, description, and spec sheet.
PC Quote gives you all the information necessary to keep up with the stock market. By offering several different tiers of service, it hopes to satisfy everyone from the market dabbler to the big-time tycoon. The free service offers stock quotes (delayed 20 minutes) as well as a symbol guide. For a premium, PC Quote's MarketSmart service offers unlimited quotes, charts, fundamentals, portfolio services, option pages, rankings, fund pages, indexes, stats, and more.
Aliens have landed. This fictional site exists as "the single most efficient means of disseminating to the global scientific community--without delay--a significant portion of the data being collected and processed daily by EON-4," the U.S. Government's alien project. On the site is every type of information related to this three-year long extraterrestrial encounter, notably a daily log of alien contact, complete with images.
Happy Puppy Gameshappypuppy.com
If you make a habit of walking around in a daze, mumbling, "Bring me the red pages!" or if you violently attack random friends and neighbors while yelling "Die, alien scum!" you'll be a happy puppy when you check out this site. Happy Puppy has games, games, stuff about games, and more games. A collection of links lead to cheat/walkthrough pages for popular games, and all the best shareware is available for the taking.
With bright colors and friendly hosts Virgil and Lil' Howie, Kidsworld is assured a prime spot on any kid's bookmark list. The site has a games area, with tic-tac-toe and the like, as well as puzzle areas for different topics like math, science, and languages. Visitors to the site can send virtual greeting cards, and talk (via newsgroup) among themselves as well as to the site's characters. With all this to do, Kidsworld is a sure bet for fun and education.
Leave it to Microsoft to come up with a site that does it all. MSN wants to become your home page--and with all of the site's solid, useful features, it just may deserve that distinction. Microsoft provides a general Web tutorial for beginners, as well as a neatly organized list of links to useful services like search engines and phone directories. Most importantly, you can customize the page to fit your tastes. Nearly everything imaginable can be put on the site: stocks, sports scores, news, weather maps, comics, favorite links, TV listings--even the colors are customizable.
Sony Online is a testament to just how big the Japanese electronics giant really is. The site is full of information about all Sony's ventures: music, electronics, television, movies, theaters, and more--all in one place, and with a friendly, though often inconsistent, interface. Whether you're shopping for that new Beatles T-shirt or just keeping up to date with the daily updates on "The Young and the Restless," Sony Online will keep you informed, entertained, and addicted.
Just when you thought you might actually have to get out of that armchair, along comes TV1. Eliminating that frustrating seven-second hiatus while the transition is made from Web-surfing to channel-surfing, TV1 lets you get listings online, and they're customizable too. You simply enter the times you like, the channels you watch, and the types of shows you enjoy, and TV1 does all the legwork, bringing you a neat grid of all the listings--you can even search by keyword.
AudioNet puts thousands of radio stations and audio clips in one place. Using the Real Audio player, you can listen to dozens of radio stations from all around the world live, plus hear archived interviews, comedy, and music. Live events like sports games, usually broadcast only locally, are now accessible anywhere to the out-of-towner who wants to check up on how a home team is doing.
Los Angeles Timeswww.latimes.com
From the city that brought the world Hollywood, Magic Johnson, and O.J. Simpson comes the full text of its leading newspaper, along with archives back to 1990. This site is probably the only one on the Web that can truly claim to handle mainstream news and entertainment (focusing on the L.A. area) with equal aplomb. Even the classifieds are here.
NPR on the Webwww.npr.org
NPR keeps the tradition of great radio alive while moving it to a new medium. The site's focus is on content, not presentation. You'll find news, feature stories, and a varied assortment of regular programs. Informational content unique to the site includes an area where transcript information is available, as well as a list of local member stations.
From the NBA finals to the Kentucky Derby, SportsLine will make sure you don't miss any of the action. With wide-ranging coverage and scores of columnists, the site will be sure to provide you with your fill--provided you're willing to pay, that is. The site is plagued by members-only areas; next to nothing is free. The most unique feature of SportsLine is its live, animated (via the Shockwave plug-in) baseball, where all of the action of ongoing games takes place on a little diamond on your screen.
Want to see where your favorite author will be on tour? Maybe download Shakespeare's complete works? At BookWire, that's just the beginning. The site is a wealth of book-related information, including bestseller lists, indexes of booksellers and publishers, and huge archives of reviews from a host of different sources. Bookwire is the ultimate resource for the Web-surfing bookworm.
If you're looking for that old roommate, or maybe just checking for possible relatives, Four11 is the place. The site has three separate directories: one for U.S. phone numbers, one for e-mail, and one for Internet phones. The latter two are atypical in that you need not know the domain of the person you're looking for.
Global Health Networkwww.pitt.edu/HOME/GHNet/GHNet.html
If you need current health-related information, this is the place to look. GHN is a worldwide collection of no-frills, health-related sites, with topics ranging from traveler's tips to fertility studies. This ambitious project is constantly growing, trying to keep up with the latest studies.
Internal Revenue Servicewww.irs.ustreas.gov
Painless, well-organized, and positively...cute? Are you sure this is the right IRS? Everyone's favorite governmental department has come online--and it's made filing taxes a bit less frustrating. With downloadable forms, lots of information, and online filing, April 15th shouldn't be as scary any more. And new tax information is available all year long.
Taking a road trip? Check out this comprehensive online map of the US. This incredible site lets you zoom from a map of the US down to a map of your street--and yes, it will actually have your street, even if it's not Main Street. Or, just enter your address and go straight to a zoomed-in view. With new Java and ActiveX applications, MapQuest is sure to prove as indispensable as its trusty, glove compartment counterpart.
Don't be fooled by its Spartan interface. Subway Navigator is a very thorough guide to subways throughout the world. It's incredibly useful. Just pick one of a list of about fifty major cities worldwide, and then pick your departure point and destination. Subway Navigator will get you where you're going, and even hazard a guess as to how long it'll take. Now if only it could fix the air conditioning. . . .
It's just like dialing 411, except that it's free, quick, and it doesn't even ask "what city?" Switchboard is database of 100 million listings nationwide, both business and personal. The interface isn't complicated, nor should it be--Switchboard's elegance lies in its simplicity. Just enter a name (and, optionally, a city and state), and all matching entries instantly pop up. Suddenly, "I lost the number" won't let you off so easily anymore.
Copyright(c) 1996 Ziff-Davis Publishing Company
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