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I was checking Webware’s finalists for something called the “best web apps” of the year and the first thing you notice is that almost every site on there is named like a pet that you might’ve once owned which later turned into roadkill. Some of the gems to be found include Zillow, Zoho, Bebeo, Meetro, Yoono, Ning, Geni, and the list continues. Curiosity got the better of me and I started on a journey of trying out some of the “best web apps” and trying to figure out how they can help me make my life complete or at least give me a better way to waste my time. So here’s what I thought of them:

MyBlogLog: This is what you call a regurgitated idea that’s been wrapped around an interface so ugly that it makes MySpace look like modern art. Here’s how it works: they beg you to link a JavaScript file in your code and then proceed to collect stats off of it, something Web Side Story did from the beginning of time and something which is replicated by AWStats to near perfection. If you’ve got a WordPress blog or anything other than Blogger, don’t bother with this crap. Oh yeah, as soon as you sign up some guy named “Eric” automatically becomes your “friend” and introduces himself as one of the owners of this operation. Funnily enough, judging by his last login date, he himself hasn’t logged in to this misadventure in over four days. But I encourage everyone to sign up and look at the “Edit Profile” page and tell me if you’ve ever seen a form so ugly and hideous.

Tangler: It doesn’t even matter what this site does. Its blatant rape of Ajax is so apparent that you just want to disable JavaScript for kicks and see how it reacts. Here’s a sign of bad design: you clicked on a main menu option and a “loading..” sign pops up while it fetches a static submenu. WTF? The site is generally agonizingly slow and I don’t really know who to blame for it, maybe its their adoption of the Yahoo API instead of Google Analytics thats pushing it down the toilet in terms of speed. The idea of the site (not a bad one) is to have all your discussions in one place, the execution however lacks the simplicity required, no, demanded by such a venture.

Venyo: This site lets you build and ruin reputations and calls itself the “web 2.0 trust provider”. You’re supposed to build a “trust index” until people stop thinking you’re a pedophile and finally allow you to comment on their blogs. People on this site have their trust settings such that you can see their first name, their last name, a close-up picture but NOT their username. This is how they justify their existence: “The lack of trust has always been an issue on the Internet and it will not get better with the emergence of new collaborative services particular to Web 2.0.” Building trust on this site means jack squat, hire 100 people in India, pay them a dollar each and you can run for president.

Squidoo: What do you call a blog without calling it a blog? A lens. As you strive and suffer your way towards becoming a “Lensmaster” you’ll realize that if you have to wait five seconds for a piece of content to load through Ajax and stare at the words “drumroll please” for the entire duration, it’s probably wiser to just load a new page. Much less aggravating. The site is trying to persuade its audience that its something different, cool and better, but in the end you’ll find out that is nothing but a slow, badly designed and introverted blogging software that wishes it was a wiki.

Platial: Another site which misuses Lightbox. By now I’ve lost count and am beginning to second guess a personal decision to allow Lightbox in an app that I’m currently working on. Make a map of your life! Doesn’t that sound exciting? For most of the blokes that means to work and back but Platial.com is counting on the world traveler amongst us to make it a success. But there’s only so much you can do when you’re relying entirely on Google Maps to do all the work for you; this idea sounds great in theory but practically speaking, it doesn’t work. The process of “adding places” to your map is not intuitive and the Ajaxy features such as searching for places isn’t thought out. Note to Platial: Only popup modal boxes when the user somewhat expects them! Wayfaring.com is much better but it doesn’t matter because Google just pwn3d both with MyMaps.

Yelp: Here’s an idea that isn’t half bad: Bitch about all the bad food you’ve ever eaten. How eager was I when I hit the Sign Up button only to have the door slammed in my face as my Canadian postal code was rejected. Maybe another time, another place.

Here’s Part 2.