TIME’s 50 Coolest Sites

    July 13, 2005

I’m belatedly coming up to speed on a well-researched feature Time recently did on the 50 Coolest Sites of 2005.

They’ve got them broken up into categories, like News & Search, Entertainment, etc. Sure enough, the chosen sites really are some of the coolest and most significant sites around.

The selection of best blogs is pretty well chosen, if you’re a zeitgeist-chaser and general time-waster.

They also do an interesting thing and put AOL, MSN, Google, and Yahoo in a “class by themselves.” (We would, too.) There really do remain four top portals — those four — and the also rans, Lycos, IAC, are not worth the same ink. Right so far.

Then they give a rundown of the coolest stuff going on with those companies.

Uncannily, they list a number of Google projects in an order not dissimilar to the order I’d put them in, in terms of coolest or most significant or some combination of the two: Desktop Search, GMail, Picasa, Labs, Maps…

Case in point, Desktop Search. I’m still getting used to the ability to find any document on my system in under a second, even by entering a snippet of text you think is embedded in one of a few dozen possible documents. Desktop Search gives you a list of relevant results in a snap. It truly is a lifesaver.

Moving onto Yahoo, though, the picture looks different. Is it just me, or does Yahoo’s list look weak? Music, MyWeb, News, and Briefcase. Briefcase?

Yahoo News has always set the industry standard, so fair enough. On the music front, Time’s folks admit that if you have an iPod, “stick with iTunes.” Faint praise. MyWeb is the coolest of the bunch, and has generated controversy about new search trends, never a bad thing as we come out of a period of relative apathy towards search innovation.

MSN only gets one entry in the Kewl File, and that’s Virtual Earth, “which looks like it might top them all.” This review takes Microsoft vaporware claims at face value (it’s based on features that are promised) and studiously ignores all the things Google will do to top them, once Microsoft “tops them all.” If that’s the cool list for Microsoft, then they really must be grasping at straws.

Over at AOL, its, uh, portal gets a rave review. The company unlocks the gated garden, to many yawns (at least from our side of the fence). Also mentioned is AIM Mail (we’ve got 2 gigs, too!), and AOL Explorer, which is an AOL-ified browser that’s supposed to make IE suck less. But anything that introduces tabbed browsing and spyware protection to the masses has gotta be good, no? I guess. :) On a short list of 50 sites that somehow makes room for the “Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator,” they can’t muster a mention of Firefox? Hmm.

Even bending over backwards to be balanced, is it any contest really, to determine which of the four biggies has the most cool stuff going on in 2005? If this keeps up, we’ll have to stop talking about AOL and Microsoft entirely.

Over to you, Zawodny.

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Andrew Goodman is Principal of Page Zero Media, a marketing consultancy which focuses on maximizing clients’ paid search marketing campaigns.

In 1999 Andrew co-founded Traffick.com, an acclaimed “guide to portals” which foresaw the rise of trends such as paid search and semantic analysis.