The best of the web (Part 1) - Lfttt & Diaspora

4/28/2012 11:51:59 AM

We share the websites you should already be using to make your life easier and more entertaining.

Groundbreaking websites are all around us, and if you believed every company that positioned itself as the lasted, greatest thing, you’d have an awful lot of bookmarks in your browser. Sites come and sites go, and it’s rare that one makes enough of an impact on your life to revolutionsise how you use the internet, but occasionally sites come along that offer a genuinely new way of finding, storing or curating stuff on the web. We’ve put together a list of 20 websites we think could let you use the internet in a way you haven’t done before, save your time, make you money and let you enjoy yourself in the process. We’ve found brand new sites that offer functionalities not found elsewhere and also included a few that have been around for a while, but have really come into their own in recent years. We may have highlighted them because they are about to come out of beta, or have just matured into popular and interesting tools worthy of an introduction if you missed them the first time around – or a re-evaluation if you didn’t.

What we do on our computers is moving increasingly to the cloud, with free storage and utilities becoming the norm. we like to think we’ve found the sites that can help you get the best web services available to make your online life as pleasurable as possible.

The breath of services online means you really can change your life using the internet. With the websites we’ve covered you can discover new music, set up your own radio station, play the latest high-end games, book holidays or bring down a corrupt corporation, all from your web browser. Then there’s the social side, where we’ve discovered sites that let you use online pinboards, create compelling stories from social media, share free music and even write your autobiography, all of which can help you find a new way of expressing yourself, or find others who are interested in the same thing as you.

Whether it’s keeping aide-mémoires, finding images and notes, solving problems using crowd sourcing or automating admin tasks, we reckon we’ve got a site that will change your web browsing habits forever.


The whole point of computers when they were first introduced to the workplace was to automate tasks to make humans’ lives easier. Complex calculations could be done in seconds, freeing up the human operators to concentrate on more cerebral matters. Nowadays, it’s the computers themselves that are creating more and more menial and repetitive tasks that keep us away from keeping up with social networks to backing up photos and documents.

Wouldn’t it be nice to cut through all that and make the internet work for you? For it to do these tasks automatically, or tell you when something happens that you are genuinely interested in? What if every time you uploaded a picture to Instagram it was automatically backed up to your Dropbox account? Or if the release dates for new films magically appeared in your Google calendar? Wouldn’t it be good if, when you were ‘working from home’, you got a text message letting you know when your boss had emailed you? Yes? Then Ifttt is for you.

Make the internet work for you by creating tasks that fit the simple ‘if this then that’ structure.

 ‘Ifttt’ stands for ‘if this, then that’. This type of command is the basic premise behind most programming languages. The Ifttt website enables you to link commonly used services and devices (or ‘channels’, as it refers to them), and lets you arrange for an action to occur on one service when certain conditions have been fulfilled on another. These channels include a variety of common tools – social media sites like Twiiter and Facebook, photo services like Instagram, and even phone-based services like generating text messages and making calls. Each of these channels can be connected to another, and when triggers are applied to them – say ‘every time one of my tweets contains a certain hashtag, back it up to Evernote, the note-making tool’ – it will carry them out automatically, saving you time and helping you saty organised.

If your programming skills aren’t up to the task, there are ‘recipes’ so you can get commonly used linkups and apply them to your services. It’s deceptively simple and powerful, and as more services are added it could revolutionise the way you use the web.



Back in April 2010, four computer science students from New York University were so unimpressed by Facebook’s lack of privacy controls they decided to create their own decenralised open source social network. To do this they tried to raise $10,000 to fund on, but the idea of a more controllable network was so popular that by June they had raised over $200,000. This caused a flurry of media interest that talked it up as the next big thing and then, as so often happens, it was quietly forgotten. Since then it has gone through a buggy alpha developer build and is just about to appear in beta form. So why are we championing it as a new way to use the web?

Diaspora was built as a reaction to the privacy issues of Facebook, and these issues are still a worry today. What’s more, with the latest changes to Facebook (like the forced implementation of the Timeline) taking even more control away from the user, maybe it’s time for a site that’s described as ‘the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network’.

Description: Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated to the Diaspora project.

Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated to the Diaspora project.

Diaspora wants to make privacy key to social networking – it doesn’t plan to share any of your information. You control every aspect of your Diaspora experience, without having to wade through pages of settings to keep your profile secure. You can also control what you see and how you see it. Diaspora came up with Google+’s Circles before Google did – except it calls them Aspects – so you can choose to share your posts and photos with only those groups of friends you choose. It also lets you integrate other social networking services, including Twitter and Facebook. It’s a truly open social experience that puts you back in the driving seat.

Some are saying Diaspora is too late to the party. It’s certainly been teasing us with the beta version for a while, but if you value your privacy and want to control how your data is seen by others, it’s likely that you’ll end up on Diaspora in 2012, even just to give it a try – if it’s developers can manage to get it out of beta in time.

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