Two reasons we’re qualified to hand out internet awards: First, every morning we wake up before sunrise, make coffee, and find our RSS readers stuffed with thousands of unseen websites and stories—and we look at them all. Second, we’ve relived that same morning, Groundhog Day-style, every weekday since 1999.
These are our favorite websites from the past year, as well as a few applications. They entertained us, helped us, informed us, and kept us clicking. We thank them for sweetening our internet experiences, and we hope you enjoy them, too.
Best Musical Mashterpiece
Israeli musician and composer Kutiman spliced and diced more than a hundred videos of amateurs showing off their musical chops on YouTube, and concocted the human-powered video mash-up ThruYOU. Like any great musical mash-up, the results become all the more impressive when you consider the sources. So make sure you view each song’s credits, where you can get a peek inside Kutiman’s pantry by watching the original un-mashed, unedited clips.
Best Reason to Cancel Your GQ Subscription
Does Michael Williams eat and breathe Americana, or is his obsession with plaid thermoses merely a fetish? Williams’s website A Continuous Lean is a style blog for dudes who secretly obsess over belt buckles. Williams himself is ever-present, and he gets refreshingly combative in the comments section; we like to picture him field-dressing Kanye’s corpse with a custom-lathed axe. It’s unclear if the site will disappear back into the sands once Urban Outfitters stops selling canvas luggage, but we doubt it, and until then Williams delivers the hits.
Best Way to Prove Your Superiority
There are three reasons to Google: to locate information for yourself, to locate information for someone else, or to be a jerk. Because let’s face it, sometimes you want to prove somebody wrong, or find the answer before they do, or just remind them there’s a vast, open directory of information they can search at any time. For jerks like us, there is Let Me Google That for You. But be warned: Like whoopee cushions or fake vomit, it can only be used once per victim, or else your buddy lists may soon appear buddy-less.
Best Proof a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Extra-Wide Computer Monitors
The Boston Globe took a simple idea—tell the news with pictures—and ran to the border. Their blog The Big Picture publishes professional news photos on timely topics, throwing them up quickly and beautifully. You never knew you found cheese-rolling so entrancing, and now you do.
Best RSS Feed to Follow Then Delete Then Follow Again
The U.S. Open tennis tournament lasts just two weeks; coincidentally, that’s the same lifespan as most blogs. For the last three Opens, the New York Times hosted a U.S. Open Blog for just the duration of the tournament, and then put it to sleep for 50 weeks. But last year’s edition was spellbinding: With court-side updates from multiple reporters, live-blogging of major matches, and even an excursion to the Upper East Side during an inevitable rain delay, the posts brought the event more vividly to life than some unpaginated scroll of video embeds. Now that the next Open is just a summer away, the Times has advanced the blog to its official rotation as “Straight Sets,” expanding the coverage to all tennis, all the time.
Best Tribute Sites to Authors Unfortunately Recently Dead
We regret the glibness of that title, but over the past year we lost two of our favorite authors—David Foster Wallace and J.G. Ballard—and it’s been with genuine appreciation that we’ve seen The Howling Fantods and Ballardian.com provide us with community and context for dealing with those losses. Authors generally hate the press but love their readers; with fans like these, what else could a writer want?
Best Way to Chase the Competition
Let’s say you’re a runner, you own an iPhone, and you want to use it with the popular Nike+ system to track your distance and time; sorry, but you are screwed. You cannot do this, despite the demographics that put you in the market to spend money on such a ridiculous ego-patch. Lucky for your friends who are tired of hearing you complain and who own RAZRs and who are in much better shape than you, there’s an app for that—two good ones in fact—Fitnio and RunKeeper. Both harness your phone’s GPS capabilities to tell you how far you went, how long it took you, and how flipping awesome you looked while doing it.
Best Reason to Be Thankful for the Internet as Home to the Sophisticated, Polished & Quirky
We often joke in the headlines on TMN that a link can be good enough to justify the existence of the internet (e.g., Play him off, Keyboard Cat), but sometimes it’s true. Maira Kalman’s illustrated blog, And the Pursuit of Happiness is a phenomenon. There’s never been a site like it before because Kalman invented her own genre. Days when a new Kalman post appears are days you sail through. We imagine Sulzberger pays Maureen Dowd a ridiculous amount for her increasingly irrelevant column; is Kalman compensated for justifying an entire medium?
Best Way to Get Your Tweet On
If Twitter is anything—and it is a lot of things, including a flash in the pan, a new form of blogging, the downfall of journalism, the paradigm of brevity, etc.—then what it is is hard to explain to anyone how to use, much less why they should. But with Tweetie, that’s all changed. To explain, think of the Twitter experience up to this moment as WarGames, with BBSs and telephone-coupler modems. With Tweetie, though, it’s more like Disclosure, which had awesome virtual reality gear and crazy email systems and starred Demi Moore, who is now married to star-Tweeter Ashton Kutcher, and now it all makes sense, doesn’t it?
Best Pre- or Post-Intercourse Internet Indulgence
If you like fashion magazines—better: if you like to imagine yourself working for a fashion magazine—you’ll love jjjjound. Jjjjound takes the “image bookmarking” style of ffffound and goes very specific: paper-thin, mostly text-less, and certainly Francophile, but of all the image blogs out there determined to show how deftly their masters can display fine taste through Google’s image search, it is the best. Of course, we have to mention its new competitor, which is somehow even better: mmmmound.
Best Glimpse of an Alternate Future
Last March, interactive mixtape-sharing site Muxtape bestowed upon everyone the power to upload music to a personal space, all while safeguarding the actual files behind an interface that allowed listening but not downloading—so it had to be legal, right? Except it wasn’t, and five months later Muxtape as we knew it was no more. But here’s the unforeseen upshot: While anything to do with online music reminds us of music’s plummeting retail value, Muxtape’s speedy ascension reminded us how the real value of music is in the listening, not the ownership.
Best Blogs that Do One Small Thing Very Well
There are probably a billion sites that could win this category, but two caught our eye this year: Cold Splinters, a blog that covers news about camping, and then posts mp3s and gear that go well with enjoying the outdoors, and Remodelista, which is a soft-porn dealer for home-buyers and furniture addicts. Both are updated regularly and are consistently excellent—what more do you want?
Best Source for Making Sense of It All
In this world, there are a lot of people, places, and things. You name it—architecture, movies, social networks, authors—and the list goes on—really, really on. Wouldn’t it help to have everything that exists (and even a few things that don’t) put into some sort of context? Trust Tomorrow Museum to do just that. A monumental task, yet curator Joanne McNeil’s blog essays never fail to go headfirst into the deep end of the pool. For those trying to find the essence, this is essential reading.
Best Idea Box
Many blogs are boring, lazy ventures in ego-regard. But David Friedman’s Ironic Sans is consistently original and bursting with new ideas. Whether it’s his 60 Second film series, his idea sandbox, or his thesaurus for Twitter users (“Thsrs: The shorter thesaurus”), we’re regularly entertained. If you like Waxy, you’ll love Ironic Sans.
Best Be-All, End-All Mp3 Blog
First there was no music on the internet, then there was too much, then there weren’t enough voices to help point out the best stuff to listen to, then there were too many—and then this year blogging luminaries from longtime TMN favorites like the Catbirdseat, Chromewaves, Fluxblog, Largehearted Boy, and Said the Gramophone threw their sombreros in the ring to form MBV, which basically makes them the Traveling Wilburys of the mp3 blogging scene. The result is more mp3 coverage than you can handle (with care).