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The World Wide Web (now more commonly known simply as the Web) has been with us for over 20 years now, and in that relatively short space of time it has unequivocally changed the world. For better or worse. The architects of the Web could not have foreseen what a huge impact their creation was going to have, but over the course of two decades and counting the Web has evolved into a sprawling mass of websites and pages that number in the billions.
MakeUseOf deals with a mix of new and old sites, often comparing those of a similar nature to each other. We’re mainly focused on the fresh, the new, the undiscovered, but just occasionally it’s worth reminding ourselves of the websites that we’d be lost without. The ones which, if they didn’t exist, could bring the Web grinding to a halt.
What follows are what I consider to be the seven wonders of the Web, at least as it stands in 2013. There are many more missing that were considered for inclusion, but for me the websites included are the linchpins around which the rest of the Web operates. The list is also made up of websites that, were the rest of the Web to disappear, I could use to survive. If I were you I’d bookmark each and every one of the following, if you haven’t done so already.
Google is arguably the glue that keeps the Web together. Certainly the Google homepage, with its minimalist design and constantly changing Google Doodles, is the first port of call many people make when they open their Web browser. From the Google homepage you can also access Gmail, Play, Maps, News, and a host of other services provided by the company.
The Google homepage is the tipping off point for various trawls around the Web. It’s certainly telling that “Google” quickly became a verb, with people Googling websites, names, and places. In many ways Google helped turn the Web from a geeky collection of disparate websites into a mainstream phenomenon for the masses. All of which assures its place on this list.
Wikipedia is the free online encyclopedia that is the website most people turn to when they need to source extra information about a particular person, place, or product. At the time of writing it contains 24 million entries, 4 million of which are written in English. This is a vast collection of data about every subject under the sun. And a few more besides.
Wikipedia had a poor reputation for many years thanks to untruths, misquotes, and the vandalization of entries. But those issues have mostly been resolved thanks to a dedicated team of editors who check every crowd-sourced revision. It’s a truly invaluable resource, and it’s completely free and funded by donation, meaning you don’t even have to put up with adverts.
YouTube is the premier video-sharing site on the Web, with a vast collection of videos of all descriptions being uploaded every day, all of which are added to the growing repository. When YouTube was launched in 2005 it was good, now, thanks to a strong guiding hand from Google, which acquired the site in 2006, it’s phenomenal.
While some people may not explore past the music videos and clips of animals doing funny things, YouTube is home to a lot more than that. Not only are movies, concerts, sporting events, and original programming available on the site, there are channels dedicated to subjects of particular interest to MakeUseOf readers, including science and technology.
Facebook is by far the largest social networking site in the world, with more than 1 billion people registered for an account. Strangely, a good proportion of those users don’t particularly like the site, or at least Facebook’s often-clumsy attempts at opening up user data to a wider audience or introducing new, unwanted features. Still, Facebook makes this list because its power cannot be disputed.
Many other sites and services now connect to Facebook or let you use your Facebook credentials in place of their own. In other words, Facebook has its tentacles spread far and wide across the Web, and is hard to ignore as a result. It’s important to remember Facebook’s primary function is for keeping in touch with family and friends, and as long as you stay on top of your profile, it doesn’t have to be a painful experience.
Twitter is a different beast than Facebook, with its 140-character limit on updates and a much weaker bond between the contacts and connections made. If Facebook is for friends and family to communicate, Twitter is for strangers to do the same. You can follow individuals you admire and find out what they’re up to, or become the conduit for your own broadcasts, telling the rest of the world whatever it is you want them to hear.
This, however, isn’t the reason Twitter makes the list. Instead it’s the capacity for Twitter to be used as an organ for breaking news that makes it one of the wonders of the Web. There are countless examples of big, important news stories having first broken on the micro-blogging social network. The only problem is sorting the real news stories from the fakes.
eBay may not be the force it once was, but it’s still the first port of call for many people looking to buy and sell new and used items online to others. You could literally buy and sell all your worldly possessions on eBay multiple times over, and that’s justification enough for its inclusion on this list.
If you have a need or desire to pick up an item that isn’t available in bricks-and-mortar stores (for reasons of age or availability) then eBay is the obvious solution. The reverse is also true; if you have an item you no longer want but think will be of worth to someone else, then eBay is the place to go. If you have spare cash and a desire for unnecessary material possessions then browsing eBay also makes for an entertaining evening.
Reddit is the dark horse on this list, the one most likely to elicit furrowed brows from some readers. But bear with me for a second. Although there are many websites offering similar compendiums of awesomeness, Reddit is the daddy of them all. Partly thanks to the scale and scope of content available on the site, and partly because of the number of users now getting involved on a regular basis.
Reddit calls itself “the front page of the Internet,” and that description seems more apt with every passing day. While there is a need to sort the wheat from the chaff on Reddit, the quality of content that makes it to the front page is improving rapidly. With Reddit it’s a definite case of the more you put in, the more you get out, and I suspect its popularity is only going to grow from this point on.
As mentioned in the opening paragraphs I considered many, many more websites for inclusion in this list, but in the end these seven won out over the countless others vying for attention. The reasons each one was included have, I hope, been explained to the satisfaction of most. If not then feel free to leave a comment below questioning the inclusion of any of the above or exclusion of your pick.
Think of this as a starting point. If you think another website should have made the list then link to it in the comments section and explain why it should be considered an absolute must for all Internet users. Readers stumbling upon this article in years to come can then read on past this paragraph and gain more insight from the MakeUseOf readership.
Image Credit: Hobvias Sudoneighm