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Top 10 Real World Web Apps of 2008

Here at ReadWriteWeb, we love to talk about the latest and greatest Web 2.0 applications. However, while a lot of these services make our life on the Internet a lot easier, another group of services on the web helps to keep our offline life organized. Here is our list of the top ‘real world’ apps that have made our offline lives easier in 2008. We will look at the following five six categories: finance, travel, education, health, politics, and non-profits.

Of course, given the broad range of topics that we cover in this category, we had to make some tough choices and many exceptional products didn’t quite make the cut. If you have your own favorites, please let us know in the comments.

This is the seventh in our series of top products of 2008:

  1. Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2008
  2. Top 10 International Products of 2008
  3. Top 10 Consumer Web Apps of 2008
  4. Top 10 RSS and Syndication Products of 2008
  5. Top 10 Mobile Web Products of 2008
  6. Top 10 Enterprise Web Products of 2008



Mint single-handedly changed the market for personal finance tools on the Internet in 2008 and forced Quicken, its closest competitor, to start offering its own online tools for free as well. Mint aggregates personal finance data from across the web and displays a consolidated view of all of your accounts in a very well designed and easy to use user interface. Mint also uses this data to recommend better credit cards and savings accounts to its users.

Mint launched its beta program in late 2007 and came out of beta in October 2008.  By October, Mint already had close to half a million users and had managed over $12 billion in transactions. In the course of 2008, Mint added a substantial number of new features to its lineup, including the ability to get an overview of your investment accounts. Mint also launched a major redesign of its user interface in August.


While Rudder might look similar to Mint at first, this personal finance tool has a very different focus. While Rudder also aggregates your banking and credit card accounts, it does not focus on analyzing your past spending habits in the way Mint does. Instead, its focuse is on the letting you know how much money you still have to pay your monthly bills. One of the great advantages of Rudder is that it sends all your updates to your inbox, so that you don’t even have to log in to the service to keep up to date.

Rudder debuted at this year’s DEMOfall conference in San Diego and, given the current economic situation, couldn’t have launched at a more opportune time. Rudder also features a large number of useful finance planning tools and a great mobile site.



PatientsLikeMe is an online community for people with life-changing medical conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Fibromyalgia. Even though the site is still relatively now, it already provides on of the largest patient communities, and also features a wide range of research tools for symptoms and treatments.

PatientsLikeMe was founded in 2004 and defines its mission as providing a platform for sharing real world medical data. Members of the site often share data about their individual health experiences like symptoms, weight, mood swings, or drugs they have taken. Thanks to this, you can easily find others who are in the same situation as you and see what treatments are working for them.

Earlier this year, we named PatiensLikeMe as one of our favorite Web 2.0 health apps.


Our second top health app is also a social network, but this time for physicians. Sermo has over 90,000 members who exchange information about both medical and non-medical issues. As Matthew Holt from the Health Care Blogpointed out to us, the site also features some highly sophisticated survey and ratings tools, though it is only open to registered physicians.

This year, Sermo also rolled out a partnership with Bloomberg that provides healthcare investors with access to medical information compiled by the site’s members.



TeachStreet is not an educational site in the traditional sense. Instead, it provides a marketplace for teachers and students to meet. TeachStreet, whose motto is ‘Learn New Things,’ focuses mostly on teaching adults anything from arts and crafts, to bagpiping and foreign languages. TeachStreet started out in Seattle, WA, but expanded to Portland, OR and the Bay Area this year. The site already lists over 60,000 different classes and instructors.

TeachStreet is an interesting tool, both for teachers to gain more visibility, and for students to find the right classes and teachers. Thanks to its excellent search functions and well-designed layout, TeachStreet has already made a name for itself in the regions where it has officially launched and is poised for more growth in 2009.



While the U.S. election surely dominated the news this year, one non-election related web app that we really came to appreciate this year was OpenCongress. OpenCongress is a project by the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation and is definitely a must for political junkies. The site tracks all the news and votes in the U.S. Congress through an easy to use interface that features a lot of AJAX and RSS. The site even supports OpenID and also provides its users with a large number of widgets they can implement on their own sites.

As our own Marshall Kirkpatrick pointed out in his review of the site, it makes users “want to pay attention to politics because the user experience is so smooth and compelling.”



Kiva is a micro-lending service that was founded in 2005 and at that time, it was the first person-to-person micro-ending site on the net. Kiva allows its users to lend small amounts of money to entrepreneurs in developing nations. The loans typically go towards starting up or expanding small, local businesses, ranging from a motorcycle repair shop in Lebanon to tailors in Pakistan.

In November, Kiva announced that over $50 million have now been lend by Kiva’s over 330,000 members. This is a major success for the organization, especially given that Kiva had only loaned $11 million by September 2007. Kiva also ran a successful billboard campaign in California thanks to the help of PayPal.

The current financial crisis is obviously affecting Kiva and the organization is already seeing fewer lenders. Hopefully, this trend will reverse in 2009.

Wild Apricot

Wild Apricot provides software-as-a-service solutions to small and medium sized associations, clubs, and non-profits. It has created tightly integrated solutions for membership management, event registration, and creating customized web sites, with a focus on the non-profit sector. Service plans range from free to a flat fee of $200 a month, depending on the size of the contact database you plan to manage on the service.

In 2008, Wild Apricot rolled out a number of updates to its software, including support for Google Checkout, custom URLs, and better group management. Currently, Wild Apricot has more than 10,000 non-profit organizations as clients. We also like the company’s well-written and informative blog about technology for non-profits.

Disclosure: Wild Apricot is a RWW sponsor.



The web clearly revolutionized the travel industry. Booking flights and vacations online has quickly become a routine activity, even for less savvy web users. While Yapta launched in 2006, it was really only in 2008 that the site was able to differentiate itself from larger competitors like Kayak, FareCompare,  or Farecast. In June, Yapta announced a new feature that allows you to track airfare changes, and in November, Yapta unveiled a unique service that also allows you to track when and where you can use you frequent flier milesto book a flight.

While it’s probably best to take this data with a grain of salt, Yapta claims to have saved its users over $91 million in airfare since May 2007.


PlanetEye is a social travel site with a strong focus on providing both user-generated content, as well as stories from local editors all over the world. One of the core features of PlanetEye are its Travel Packs, which let you clip content from the site while you are planning your trip. This allows you to easily create your own personalized travel guides. PlanetEye came out of beta in the middle of 2008 and has already managed to established a loyal community of users on its service. PlanetEye also partnered with Travelocity, OpenTable, and StubHub.

Besides giving you great info for planning your trip, PlanetEye also lets you share geotagged photos with the rest of the PlanetEye community. The highlight of the service, however, is the content added by PlanetEye’s local experts which ranges from blog posts to reviews of restaurants and local sights.

That’s our list of ‘real world’ web apps that we think have made a difference to mainstream people in 2008. Let us know in the comments what your favorites are.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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