It's the end of the year and so time for 'best of' and prediction posts, which are a lot of fun. Today I've been re-organizing my Firefox bookmarks, which made me reflect on which web apps and sites I've used the most this year. I encourage you all to add your own most used web apps in the comments. I've experimented with and tested many more, but in the final analysis you can't go past the usage metric.
In no particular order, but loosely categorized, my favorites of '07 were:
RSS Reader: Google Reader (with an ongoing interest in Bloglines Beta, Newsgator, and fav.or.it)
I used to be Bloglines' biggest fan. I still love what they're doing, especially since Eric Engleman came on board and re-energized development. But Google Reader has been my favourite RSS Reader throughout 2007, thanks to their continued innovation and experimentation. But the great thing about this space is that innovation is back: Google forced Bloglines' hand, but the Bloglines Beta is encouraging. Newsgator has never really stopped innovating and it's only the fact that I prefer a browser-based Reader that's prevented me from becoming a Newsgator fanatic.
See 2007: The Year in RSS for more details on this market.
I use them both because they are fine products, well designed and always ahead of the curve in comparison with Google, Microsoft and Yahoo's similar offerings.
iGoogle does offer more gadgets, but the slick UI and constant developments in Pageflakes and Netvibes is what keeps those two at the top of my list of start pages.
Techmeme is well known amongst tech bloggers and readers, quite simply because it's second to none in keeping up with tech news. Aggregating news on a single page, ordering it and having it constantly catching scoops as they happen - it's very hard to pull that off. Many have tried (TailRank, Megite, etc), but none have become daily addictions like Techmeme has for me.
Original Signal is another that I use a lot. It is a useful aggregation service of popular links, in a variety of categories. It's a very simple idea, but nicely implemented (with previews, ability to re-order, etc).
Online Music: last.fm
Without a doubt the best online music service, at least according to a comparison test we did earlier this year. I frequently use last.fm during the working week, and it never fails to throw up great new artists that I'd not heard before.
Pandora is also fine, but unfortunately it's inaccessible to me as I live outside the US. Grooveshark is one to keep an eye on (or an ear on!). Amie Street is another good, DRM-free source of online music (our review). See also ReadWriteWeb's Online Music Week for more recommendations.
I use both sets of Web Office suites on a regular basis, to collaborate with others on documents - or even by myself, simply because it is so practical to do word processing or spreadsheets in the browser (I don't have much call to do powerpoints). I even tried to use exclusively Web Office for a period in 2007, instead of Microsoft Office. This was because I'd gotten a new Mac and decided to see how long I'd last without MS Office. It lasted a few months, but in the end I got frustrated with little things like slow UI and lack of some of the advanced features in MS Office.
I'm sure that Web Office suites will compete better with MS Office over the coming years, but for now they are excellent complements to the desktop suites.
Project Mgmt: Basecamp
I simply can't live without this product now. We use it at ReadWriteWeb, for team messaging, collaboration on projects, To Do lists, and more. It's also one of the relatively rare web apps that I actually pay for (gasp! what a concept!).
Web Email: Gmail
I've spoken many times about how I love the 'web native' functionality of Gmail. It has performance issues at times (even going down for half a day early in the year), but overall it remains my number 1 email account.
Yahoo Mail is still the number 1 worldwide, and Windows Live Hotmail has millions of users too. I also tried Thunderbird during the year. But none was able to even come close to enticing me to ditch Gmail.
I use Digg a lot to monitor tech news - and of course it is an important traffic driver for tech blogs such as RWW. StumbleUpon is something I'm still getting used to, despite having been a user for a while now. By design it favors serindipity over tracking, which makes it different from most of the news services I use (digg, Techmeme, Google Reader, Pageflakes, etc). Still, it has an attraction to it - why else do I have the StumbleUpon toolbar on my browser? :-)
del.icio.us is something I use a lot too. Another one to keep an eye on is Sphinn, a small but influential social news site focused on search. And there is a new design coming for Propeller (ex-Netscape). Mixx is another getting rave reviews. So these may become regular visits for me in '08.
Reddit is another social news product worth mentioning, although I've always found its popular stories to be a bit on the frivolous side. Just my opinion.
I'm not a huge user of online video, so YouTube still does the trick for me. I also like MyStrands (our review) and Current, the latter which released a stellar new design a couple of months ago. Joost is getting a lot of hype, but it wasn't something I found compelling in '07.
In photos, Flickr is another of those rare apps I pay for - which must mean it's good ;-)
These are my most used social networking sites / micro-blogging services (I'm bundling them into the same category here, only because I personally use them all as social publishing tools).
Like a lot of people, for me Facebook started out 2007 as a relatively obscure US college student social network. However by the end of the year, everyone I know in the blogosphere was on it. But I have to also mention that MyBlogLog has become a very effective kind of social network for RWW readers - one of the reasons it survived the Great Widget Purge of the December RWW re-design.
LinkedIn is something I use often, if only to approve new business connections. Unfortunately Plaxo isn't doing it for me, even though I receive several connection requests each week now.
I'm a Twitter addict now (username is rww) and I've started to experiment using Tumblr as a personal blog.
So those are (some) of my most used web apps and sites. There are many others I use but didn't mention, in order to keep this post to a manageable length!
What were your favorite web sites and apps of '07? And what would you recommend that RWW readers use in 2008?
Image credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid