‘Facebook down!’ Is that just another term for nothing left to browse?

At some time during the morning / afternoon / evening of Thursday 23 September, Facebook’s servers were down for a few hours. Oral, online and obscure anecdotes from friends and colleagues mentioned various fixes for their alleged and admitted Facebook dependencies.

These included baking a quiche, playing scrabble on a real board with real tiles and watching rare Monty Python videos on YouTube. A popular blog even suggested ten things to do when Facebook is down.

As I was waiting for a documentary on TV to start, when I found that Facebook had gone down (I multitask most evenings, you see) I just browsed online for a few minutes and came across the following which I’ll briefly share.

TIME magazine, in its typically reductionist, yet highly informative way recently ranked the 50 best websites for 2010. In its own words these range from the ‘helpful to the distracting, the big hitters to the unknowns’, and offers what it calls a ‘road map to the best of the Web’.

‘Contentious claim’, I hear you say. Let’s face it any list drawn up by TIME magazine tends to be mildly and subconsciously Americentric, and to see The Guardian’s website listed as the best website in the ‘News & Info’ category was a charming surprise.

As a regular reader of the print edition and user of several apps of The Guardian’s online presence there is much to be said for (gushing praise, is closer in meaning) this portal, which among other things is free at the point of access at a time when more and more online media content is being put behind steep paywalls.

Was also pleased to see the National Geographic website (another free to browse portal) listed in this category. For quality humour and satire look no further than The Daily Beast and The Onion.

Moving swiftly on to the sites listed under TIME’s category of Education, among the ones that stood out for me were Livemocha, which provides social approach to learning a language which is much cheaper and interactive than pricey software. Truly a site for our times.

Then there’s Chegg which offers semester-long book rentals. If you are a university student, they’ll ship you the rented title at the beginning of term, let you use it through to your exams and provide a free postage label to facilitate the book’s return – all at a massive discount on the book’s list price. ‘Time to reimagine libraries?’ and ‘Why did I not think of that before?’ are two questions that briefly passed through my mind.

The one site however, that had me spellbound (the TV documentary was about 20 minutes in, by the time I remembered and switched the TV on) was Labuat, which allows you to paint interactivelyto a song (Labuat being a Spanish band) using your touchpad or mouse-pointer. By clicking on a ‘record’ button you can playback your motion painting or even send it to a friend. All I’d say is just try it.

And there’s much more – quirky, creative, daring and dependency-inducing – content under TIME’s categories of Sports, Family & Kids, Financial & Productivity, Shopping & Travel, Health & Fitness, Social Media and Games.

There’s something for you to browse this weekend … if you’ll look beyond Facebook and Twitter, that is!

– Jai Mukherjee

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