By David Cohen for TIME.com
TIME announced its 50 Best Web Sites of 2010, naming five apiece in 10 categories: Music and Video; Sports; Family and Kids; News and Info; Financial and Productivity; Shopping and Travel; Health and Fitness; Games; Education; and Social Media.
For the complete list, please see TIME.com, but its descriptions of its five winners in the social-media category follow:
foursquare may be getting all the attention, but Gowalla, its scrappy Austin competitor, is more fun. Like foursquare, Gowalla lets you “check in” to real-world places using your smart phone, and the site plots your location on a map for friends to discover. But where Gowalla shines is in the experience. The brightly colored badges and the zany, fun interface (as well as the ability to add photos and create trips around locations) make Gowalla the coolest interactive passport there is.
Menus are nice, but pictures are yummy. Foodspotting combines the location awareness of Gowalla with the food fetish of a restaurant critic, letting diners update and share on-the-spot reviews and photos of every restaurant they hit. That info becomes accessible to all, so before confronting your hurried waiter, you can pull out your phone and see what that plate of spaghetti really looks like.
Somewhere between the formal business lunch and the irritating Facebook friend request lies LinkedIn, the far-reaching professional social network that allows you to reconnect with old colleagues and acquaintances, offer recommendations on bosses and co-workers and maintain up-to-the-minute résumés that might just catch the eye of Web-surfing headhunters. Quite easy to search and post to, LinkedIn is even easier to use as a virtual Rolodex, looking up those old classmates and new contacts, tracking down where they work and what they do. For being informative without being intrusive, for opening the channels of communication without veering too casual or random, LinkedIn is the forum we still believe in.
StockTwits is a by-product of all that financial chatter on Twitter. Think of the Web site as a social ticker — instead of tracking stock movements, it tracks the ongoing discussion around each stock. Find someone whose advice you trust, add them to a watch list, and get a real-time stream of investing insight. The unvarnished info can be a refreshing switch from all those makeup-encrusted anchors on financial-news shows.
Tumblr is having a breakout year. The trendy blogging platform — somewhere between the short-form bursts of Twitter and long-form blogging — has benefited from some high-profile media brands getting on board following a cool interactive Tumblr powered by Newsweek. But the site works just fine for the casual user, too. With a variety of free themes available, and with tools to make sharing videos and photos a cinch, Tumblr can make even the most mundane updates look visually stunning.