The Internet continued to grow in 2004 at an exponential pace, with some estimates reporting more than 50 million websites now on line - a gain of 10 million in just one year. Scattered throughout this increasingly crowded virtual community was a handful of standout new sites that added real value - and ease -- to the on-line experience:
Jonathan Dube, managing producer for MSNBC.com and publisher of www.poynter.org -- the website for the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, future journalists and journalism teachers.
For the news-obsessed among us, he recommends www.topix.net. "The site offers news headlines for more than 9,000 online sources," says Mr. Dube. "They are sorted geographically and by thousands of categories." In addition to headlines, topix.net lists 38,000 towns, 5,000 public companies and industries, 48,000 celebrities and musicians, and 1,500 sports teams.
Before the widespread use of the Internet, the Lexis-Nexis database was a valuable search tool. During 2004, the company introduced a new public version called Lexis-Nexis a la Carte. "This is the equivalent of searching every major magazine and transcripts from television shows in the nation at once," Mr. Dube says. "We are talking about more than 3.8 billion documents from over 20,000 sources." The site is located on the web at www.lexisnexis.com/alacarte.
For consumer information, Jonathan Dube suggests www.about.com. "The site offers this huge collection of consumer-oriented columns and links," he says. "And they are all written by everyday people, not by journalists."
Jonathan Dube recommends two newcomers that are tied to the search engine Google. The first, www.soople.com, taps into Google's most advanced features. "You can do mathematical calculations," says Mr. Dube. "You can do language translations. You can look up definitions. You can use Google as a phone book. You can use Google to search by location, name or even phone number. So there is really a ton of things that most people are not aware of, and this site makes it really easy to use."
The cyber journalist contrasts the new site with a basic Google search. "If you just enter something into the search engine Google, you are going to come up with a long list of websites related to your search term," he says. "If you go to www.soople.com, you can do dozens of things related to that."
Jonathan Dube says computer users should also take a serious look at the new Google tool bar. "The latest version," he says, "includes a browse-by-name feature. So, if you have the toolbar installed in your browser, you can basically enter words in your address bar and the relevant webpage will just pop right up without doing a web search directly."
You can find all of Jonathan Dube's recommendations on the website for the VOA science program Our World, which is www.voanews.com/science/ourworld.