While developers are definitely preferring to make apps for mobile platforms like iOS and Android, the Web isn’t going anywhere for a while, so you will still have some cool Internet services and apps being made. And while you might think 2013 didn’t see much innovation on the web, you’d be surprised at what developers were up to when you really look back at the year that has nearly gone by.
In no particular order, here are the best web apps and services that were launched in 2013:
While it’s not difficult to launch your own blog with WordPress or other tools, Postach.io went a different way: it lets you turn your Evernote into a blogging platform! And it’s a pretty robust tool too, letting you embed YouTube videos and tweets, Instagram media, and lots more. Plus, it looks really cool and you get free hosting, aided by knowing that your data is all yours on Evernote.
With Google Reader being shut down in 2013, there were a lot of other RSS readers that popped up to replace it. And perhaps the best alternative came from Digg with its new Digg Reader. It’s a beautiful and minimal app that’s perfect for consuming content, especially aided by discovering new items to read through Digg’s homepage.
Nextly wants you to forget RSS and look at consuming news online the way you do it on TV. Hook it up to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and a bunch of major news outlets, and Nextly will grab headlines from there and present it in a TV channel-like experience in your browser. You can switch between sources, topics or quickly skip articles. It’s for those who need an RSS reader for news but also want a mix of their social networks in there.
If design and aesthetics aren’t your thing, then you need Canva. With this simple tool, you can make beautiful designs easily, without needing much skills. Choose from the wide array of layouts, text labels, backgrounds, and other templates, put it all together, and there you go! It’s just easy.
Pop Up Archive is a new tool to help journalists, media, archivists, historians, and others easily find and reuse sound. Once you make an audio recording, upload it to Pop Up Archive, which automatically transcribes it and issues timestamps, making it easy to search for the recordings. The sounds are indexed so they can be recovered by keyword, date, contributor, location, and more. Plus, it has plenty of great audio already on the site from Public Radio Exchange (PRX) which you can browse.
Smithsonian X 3D
The Smithsonian X 3D is an ambitious project by the Smithsonian Institute to create accurate 3D scans of artifacts, so that you can check them out in great detail from the comfort of your couch. You’ll get to see Amelia Earhart’s flight suit, a blue crab, and even a supernova. And don’t miss out on the guided tours!
The Tor network, which maintains the anonymity of its pages by routing traffic through open connections, cannot be accessed by regular search engines like Google and Bing. Tor Search wants to make it easier for average users to search this “Deep Web”, indexing over 130,000 links so far.
Phraseum is a simple but handy browser tool that turns your day-to-day browsing into a language learning class. You can clip and save phrases you come across while browsing; tag them with the right keywords to make it easy to look them up later; and slowly and steadily, you’ll build up a database of phrases to learn from. It’s pretty cool!
If you keep clicking those list-based articles on Buzzfeed and, well, like this one, then you know that lists are a great way to arrange useful information. Culturalist wants to take this one step further, encouraging you to make lists about particular subjects, and inviting others to add their lists to the same topic. It’s a list-based social network, essentially.
The newest contender in the space of online educational courses is iversity, marked as the Coursera of Europe. It has 24 free courses to begin with and 100,000 students. It covers a wide range of topics from philosophy to physics, architecture to economics, and politics to engineering.
Sketchfab lets anyone upload 3D models (like those created in Blender) and embed them in beautifully rendered form anywhere on the Web: no plug-ins, just HTML5. It’s an easy interface (you can rotate, zoom, and pan with the mouse) and get a true sense of what you are looking at.
To put it bluntly, NextStories is a refreshing and easy-to-use alternative to StumbleUpon. You don’t need an account to get the bookmarklet. It works by seeing what you are currently reading and presenting a set of articles you would be interested in reading next, based on your current selection. You can submit sites, browse the app by categories and more, but it’s the basic functionality itself of hopping from site to site smartly that we find really cool.
When you need to find out the weather, it can be a beautiful experience. At least that’s what Forecast.io wants to prove; an elegant weather app that gives you all the weather information you would need in a gorgeous design, capped by an animated globe that rotates to show you the latest weather developments. It’s brilliant.
It’s simple. When you want to set up an online video conference, you don’t want to depend on all the participants having a Google Hangouts or Skype account. So just go to Meetings.io, set up a room and send everyone an invitation. No sign-ups needed, it’s video-conferencing at its simplest, most convenient form.
Better than creating a boring resume on LinkedIn, head to Enthuse.me and give the person who is hiring you a well-designed, streamlined look at who you are and what you do. It’s perhaps the easiest resume-builder we have used for the social web, and definitely the best looking.
Bonus! Special Mention: Medium
Although first unveiled in 2012, Medium was opened to the public in 2013 and that’s why we consider it to be truly “born” this year. The new blogging platform from the founders of Twitter is easy to use, and the v1.0 update only makes it even more beautiful than before. It’s all about writing here.
Name Your Picks
Maybe, you don’t agree with this list. Maybe, you do — but your favorite website is missing. That’s what the comment space is for. Tell us all about the outstanding websites you discovered in 2013.