The Internet is a big place, with a lot of content — about one billion websites, at last count of which 180 million are active. Because the web is constantly changing, it can be hard to keep track of which sites have the best content and resources. To help make things a little easier, we’ve compiled an enormous list of the best websites on the Internet, in fourteen handy categories.
The websites on this list are those that we consider to be the best: genuinely useful, top-of-the-line sites that will get you what you need. We update this list regularly, so check back periodically, and be sure to tell your friends!
- Online Privacy
Netflix, a service originally launched to spite Blockbuster over a $40 late fee, has blossomed into an entertainment behemoth: roughly one third of all Internet packets sent are Netflix packets, and, for $8.99 a month, you can watch an astonishing number of movies, TV shows, and documentaries whenever you want. Their original offerings, including House of Cards, are also well worth catching.
Hulu Plus, Netflix ad-funded younger brother, is a little rougher around the edges than Netflix — but also more profitable. Between subscription fees and ads, Hulu Plus can attract some clients that Netflix can’t, and a Hulu Plus subscription can help shore up some of the gaps in Netflix’ catalog.
You might know Amazon as an enormous online amalgamation of Borders, Best Buy, Walmart, and Ikea, but, because Amazon is clearly of the opinion that specialization is for insects, they also do streaming video. Their service is less elegant than Netflix, but if you have Amazon Prime (and many of you have Prime subscriptions, via their student discount), it’s free, and they have a bunch of great stuff in their catalog, including some original shows that, while not quite up to Netflix’ standard, are still well worth your time.
Movie tickets are expensive. Want to know if a movie is good before you watch it? Rotten Tomatoes has your back. Rotten tomatoes aggregates a number of reviews, categorizes them as positive or negative, and then averages them. The result is a simple, unbiased appraisal of the odds that you’ll like the movie. The results aren’t always perfect (they gave heretically low scores to The Prestige and O Brother Where Art Thou), but they are the best out there.
Literally one of the oldest websites on the internet (it predates the web browser), IMDb is one of those exhaustive, meticulous collections of movie facts and trivia that would take decades to replicate. Have a vague curiosity of the form “Hey, what’s that guy who played the cockroach monster in Men In Black called?” Good news! In ten seconds time, you can be deep into a vast, organized play-by-play of every episode of Law And Order: Criminal Intent.
Okay, so you probably know YouTube as “that place you can watch people in Saudi Arabia do terrifying things with cars” — but YouTube is much, much more. It belongs in nearly every category on this list, in fact. One of the best (and less known) features is the ability to rent movies for about $3.00. YouTube has almost everything, and, thanks to its compatibility with my Chromecast, has become a regular part of my movie-watching life. If it’s not on Netflix, it is on YouTube.
Spotify, the two ton titan of music entertainment, has seen some controversy lately (including a high-profile tiff with Taylor Swift). However, it remains the best service, on PC or mobile, for streaming pretty much anything whenever you want. The free service is a good introduction, but it’s really worth picking up Spotify Premium. You don’t realize how annoying the ads are until they’re gone.
Pandora, while not quite as useful as Spotify for just listening to music, is a great tool for finding new music. Adding a few of your favorite artists and letting it guess tends to turn up new stuff that you’ll like. Pandora is a great tool, and it’ll stay that way for years to come.
Without a doubt, SoundCloud is God’s gift to indie music. It’s a simple, bare-bones service that allows anyone to upload and download music under a variety of licenses, and embed uploaded tracks across the web. It’s effortless and has a novel timed annotation feature, allowing people to discuss music in an entirely new way. SoundCloud is great, and if you want to hear the next big thing before the labels do, SoundCloud is where to look.
Streaming music is great, but sometimes you want to buy tracks you can listen to offline (or maybe you just want to listen to Taylor Swift). iTunes, since the release of the first iPod, has grown to dominate the music industry, comprising more than 60% of all music sales on Earth. If you want to buy music (or movies, or audiobooks), iTunes probably has what you’re looking for.
Another music recommendation service, Last.fm eavesdrops in on your listening habits, and uses statistical analysis to predict what you might like.
Sometimes, you’re in the zone and you just want to listen to one song (generally “Eye of the tiger”) until you’re done. Infinite Jukebox lets you feed in a song, and it finds similar points throughout the music that it can use to generate an endless, on-the-fly remix of the song that goes for as long as you like.
Reddit is one of the most diverse media sites on the web, with content ranging from the serious to the absurd. It’s also a great source of news, both locally and internationally. By controlling your subreddit subscriptions, you can access a steady stream of feeds of just the stuff you’re interested in.
Google News is an aggregator that’s a great way to get an idea of what the coverage of certain topics looks like. It’s also able to use Google’s secret sauce of machine learning to turn up articles you might like based on Google’s statistical models of you.
On the surface, Hacker News is a fairly standard tech news aggregator. However, its technologically literate and involved community offers a unique and insightful perspective not available from more broadly-aimed tech news sites.
If you want to keep up with traditional TV news, but don’t want to pay for basic cable, Livestation is a great solution. It allows you to stream more than thirty international news channels from your browser.
538 is the product of statistician Nate Silver, who is known for almost perfectly predicting the outcome of the 2012 political election via some combination of sober statistical modelling and old-fashioned witchcraft. The site provides news blogging from a data-centric perspective, and often offers an interesting and perhaps more sober take compared to traditional twenty-four hour news networks.
Al Jazeera is a high-quality international news outlet that provides excellent reporting around the world, and can often give an interesting international perspective on local news.
Everybody knows Amazon: it’s the world’s most advanced stuff distribution infrastructure. If you want it, they’ve got it, and can get it to you for a very reasonable price. Amazon is fantastic.
Overstock, Amazon’s iconoclastic little brother, remains a major online retail outlet: they have great deals, good service– and, they accept Bitcoin. What’s not to like?
Years after its formation, ThinkGeek remains an Internet staple. The stuff they sell is rarely practical, but it is cool: the site delights in nerd tchotchkes and swag, and their stuff make great gifts and desk toys for the unrepentant dorks among us.
Ebay has been called the world’s garage sale, and the comparison isn’t unfair. Less of a player than once it was, the site (especially its ‘motors’ section) remains a viable avenue for bargain-hunters all over the world.
A first glance at Craigslist, with its early nineties web design and no visible helvetica, would not cause it to jump out at you as a website relevant to 2014. That’s where you’d be wrong. The minimalist website and its virtual classified ads remain a great way to buy and sell cars, computer equipment, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Just stay out of the personals section unless you’re into that sort of thing.
If Ebay is the world’s garage sale, Etsy is its scary crafts fair. Thousands of artists and makers, with varying degrees of obvious mental sickness, have put their hearts and souls out for sale, and a clever browser can pick up some genuinely interesting art on the cheap.
Newegg is a retailer dedicated to inexpensive consumer electronics, and they do a good job of underbidding the big, non-specialized stores. Their refurbished items in particular are often very good deals.
For the thrifty, Fat Wallet is a powerful coupon/promotion aggregator that scours to web to help you find the best deals on whatever you’re looking for.
For shoppers outside the US, thwarted by region-specific deals and stores, ViaBox lets them permanently register their own US address that they can have parcels shipped to. ViaBox collects the parcels together and ships them anywhere in the world.
If you don’t have your own domain and you aren’t using Gmail… what are you doing? Gmail is handily the best web mail client out there, and Google’s new “Inbox” upgrade (currently in beta) elevates it even further, adding in a number of powerful productivity features and a much improved workflow.
Google Drive (and its associated suite of web document editors) are handily the best cloud document service out there, especially if you’re already in the ecosystem (via Android or Gmail).
Despite Google Drive being generally a more complete service, it’s hard to argue that Microsoft Office has the best word processor and spreadsheet editor out there. Rather than paying full price for that software, you can also use it via the cloud, in your browser.
Wolfram Alpha is the awesome artificially intelligent graphing calculator that you wish you had in high school. Want to know what a function looks like? Done. Want to see how to solve an equation, step by step? Can do. Want to know the nutrition facts of a cubic parsec of fried chicken? Not a problem. Wolfram Alpha has a bizarrely broad and sophisticated suite of features, and is the student’s best friend.
An awesome multi-platform to-do-list and reminder tool for organizing your life.
Google Plus hasn’t proven to have much staying power as a social network — Hangouts however, is another story. Google’s free, browser-based answer to Skype is a great application and one you’ll actually find yourself using to keep in touch with friends and family all over the world.
A wonderful platform for short video lectures, TED is a great place for inspiration and education. Ted Talks provide a wonderful insight into the projects and ambitions of engineers, scientists, artists, and philosophers.
Blooming from a simple series of math tutorials into the largest school on planet Earth, Khan Academy is a powerful tool for teaching yourself anything from Python to linear algebra.
Coursera lets you take free online classes from more than eighty universities and educational organizations, all in one place.
Hands down the best free tool for learning another language, Duo Lingo makes it fun and helps keep you engaged for the long haul.
Got a question about technology? MakeUseOf pays its writers to answer your questions, and there’s an enormous backlog of past questions you can search — 95% of questions receive an answer.
Want to be a more efficient person? LifeHacker is a great repository of advice and tricks for living your life better.
At the often-surreal intersection of shop class and Pinterest lies Instructables, a massive repository of guides for making everything from mood lamps to robots to chandeliers. If you want to make it, someone will show you how. If you’ve been looking to get into DIY culture, Instructables is a great place to start.
Similar to Instructables, MAKE is a great introduction to maker/DIY culture and a great source for tutorials.
Learning to program? Trying to program? Stuck, or not understanding a concept? Ask StackOverflow! Between the searchable archive (use those first) and an active community of experts, StackOverflow is a fantastic resource for beginning and established programmers.
If you’re the sort of person whose extended family knows their email address, you need Snopes. Snopes is a website dedicated to hunting down the facts behind urban legends, chain letters, and misconceptions. Snopes is a reliable source for debunking pretty much anything ever sent to you by your great aunt.
We all know Facebook. It’s the most used social network on Earth and by now it’s pretty hard to get along without it. Facebook is invaluable for organizing events, keeping in touch with old friends, and sharing bad political memes.
Twitter, a social media platform limited to 140 characters, seems facile on the surface. However, it turns out that forcing succinctness eliminates a lot of the cruft that pops up on traditional social networks, and the platform has proved a great way to keep up with businesses, friends, and celebrities — without allowing them to monopolize too much of your time.
LinkedIn, a website you may know from those emails it keeps sending you, is a social network for jobs. Want a job? Need to hire somebody? LinkedIn is your friend.
A socially enabled photo app, Instagram is a great way to communicate visually with your friends — or to share oversaturated pictures of your food, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Pinterest, a great platform for sharing eclectic collections of photo-centric content (much of it tutorials, recipes and art).
Think of Imgur as a slimmed-down pinterest. Originally developed as a photo-host for Reddit, Imgur has since bloomed into a great image-sharing platform in its own right.
Tumblr remains the king of blogging, and is a great place to connect with great original content, or put your own creations out there. While the political side of the site can be scary, the creative side of the platform is phenomenal.
If you want to get into online dating, there’s only one reputable name in the business. Free, functional, and run by a gaggle of statisticians, OkCupid is a great way to meet people, and is remarkably open-minded about… well, pretty much everything, actually.
You know what Google is. It is to search what the pyramids are to wonders of the world (more specifically, nobody remembers the other six). Google will find what you need, quickly and accurately. They’re the best in the business.
Want to know where a photo came from? TinEye uses “reverse image search technology” to trawl the web for images similar to the one you submit. This is great for finding other parts of an image series or finding higher-resolution or uncropped version of a low-quality image.
Wikipedia is one of the greatest repositories of human knowledge ever constructed. Want to know about anything, from dogs to advanced mathematics? Wikipedia can oblige you.
In terms of online privacy, Tor is the gold standard. Tor makes it very difficult for attackers to figure out who’s talking to who, much less what they’re saying by using computers as a massive obfuscation network to bounce encrypted messages. Want to learn more? Check out our TOR user guide!
A free proxy service, allowing you to hide your IP address and location by tunneling through proxies all over the world. Great for getting around region-locked content and censorship, and staying anonymous on the internet.
A search engine that scrapes a variety of other search engine to provide its muscle, Duck Duck Go helps to anonymize your searches, making it harder for search engines to build up information about you from your search history. It also keeps no logs of its own users.
My permissions is a handy web-app that collects permissions settings from a number of major services and lets you manage them from one convenient location.
Terms of service are some of the worst text it’s possible to find on the Internet, and that includes TimeCube. They’re dry, bland, unreadable screeds of legalese not intended for human consumption. TOS;DR takes terms of service and digests them into something succinct and meaningful. Great for people who want to take a more active role in the services they use, and how those services use their data.
It’s 2014, and web design is finally getting better. We’ve embraced narrow columns, white space, and minimalism. The web is actually readable for the first time since the bottomless nightmare of rounded corners and gradients that was Web 2.0. That said, the future isn’t evenly distributed yet, and some websites are just plain hard to use. Readability lets you reformat web pages into a nice, friendly, readable style, and lets you save pages in that format to be read later (possibly on a mobile device).
The web is bigger than just English, and Google Translate is a great tool for exploring the parts of it that exist in other languages. Available as a browser extension, Translate leverages Google’s machine learning to convert seamlessly between languages. The results aren’t perfect, but they’re good enough to get by (and getting better with every update).
A simple service for hosting samples of formatted text, at unique URLs, to be shared freely on the Internet. Lightweight, useful, and clean.
URLs, particularly ones that are poorly formatted (looking at you, Ebay) can be a pain to paste, particularly in contexts that don’t support in-text links or have character limits (Twitter). TinyURL creates compact redirect links to any URL you want, letting you embed smaller, cleaner links.
Bad at remembering all of your passwords? LastPass is a password manager that lets you generate unique passwords for each website, logging in from any browser with a single secure master password. It’s a great combination of security and usability.
Need to sign up for a sketchy service but don’t want to submit your real email to an endless torrent of spam? Mailinator lets you create unique, disposable inboxes which delete themselves after a few days.
Want to try a service but don’t want to give them your data or set up an account? Bugmenot lets users create shared profiles for accessing websites that can be used disposably, and without revealing personal information.
The best free mapping tool, Google Maps is great for planning trips, finding your way around, or just figuring out how far away stuff is from you so you can second-guess Amazon’s shipping estimates.
A local review site, Yelp lets you check what’s good in your area, and leave reviews if you have a good (or bad) experience.
A great resource for finding bargains at restaurants and shops in your area.
A local search app, Foursquare lets you find local establishments that you may not have known about.
A foodie’s resource for local restaurant reviews, UrbanSpoon is great for discovering hidden gems in your neighborhood — and finding out which expensive restaurants aren’t worth your time.
Own an e-reader but hate paying for e-books? Luckily, a huge number of great classic books are no longer under copyright. Project Gutenberg is a massive repository for these texts, in a dazzling array of formats, all available free of charge.
A large social network for book enthusiasts! Great for connecting with other readers and sharing recommendations.
Invaluable for Kindle owners, Pixel of Ink tracks down great Kindle ebooks available cheaply or for free. Great for the bargain-hunting reader looking to expand their horizons.
A sort of Pandora for books, this site is a book recommendation engine that takes books you’ve enjoyed and recommends new books based on them.
A website that keeps track of the bestselling free Amazon kindle books. While there is a lot of fairly thin genre fiction, there are also some genuine gems.
Finance & Accounting
An entirely automatic spending tracker and budgeting tool, Mint is great for people trying to build financial responsibility who have trouble keeping track of the details.
A surprisingly good, US-oriented financial news and research website. Get stock quotes, stock exchange rates, corporate financial reports, and access popular financial message boards for tip-swapping. Also offers hosted tools for personal finance management.
Need to track your spending to find out where the money is going? Expensify lets you track your spending in a number of different ways and generates expense reports and analysis for you to look over later.
GitHub, currently the most popular platform for hosting and contributing to open software projects, is fantastic. It gives access to downloads, version history, commit logs, and contributor statistics.
A successor service to the popular (and now defunct) Megaupload, Mega is currently one of the best file hosts on the Internet, with local file encryption, fast downloads, and 50 GB of free storage space.
Dropbox is a great solution for sharing the contents of folders between computers. The first service that did it well, Dropbox remains the primarily alternative to emailing files to yourself.
Microsoft’s answer to Google drive, OneDrive lets you host, share, and edit Word, Powerpoint, and Excel documents from your browser, across multiple machines. If you’re in Microsoft’s online ecosystem, it’s a great resource.
A virtual hard drive for hosting your files, you can access them any internet-enabled machine, and edit them from your browser.
When you do get stuck emailing documents to yourself, HighTail is a great way to get around arbitrary file size caps on email clients, allowing you to email documents and folders up to two gigs in size.
A great general file converter, allowing the conversion between many different image, audio, document, and video formats. Great for any application that supports only specific file types.
A barebones, social-network-integrated file-sharing app, Ge.tt lets you easily upload files and share them across a variety of platforms.
What Did We Miss?
These websites are great, but they’re still just a drop in the bucket. Which among these are your favorite picks? Did your favorite not make the cut? Let us know! Your contributions will help us keep this list updated.