Great web apps you may not know

I have five web applications that excel in so many ways (beauty, simplicity, usefulness) and I wanted to share them in case you hadn’t heard of them yet. 

  • TrackThePack: Much like Google’s homepage, it’s so simple it’s perfect. Enter a tracking code and you have a simple look at where your package is. Register an account and you suddenly have a history of your deliveries, an iCal feed (history plus visual indication as to when a package should arrive). Plus, a smartphone-capable interface.
  • Instapaper: need to read something later? Keeping dozens of tabs open wastes resources. Bookmarks are for typically for locations you want to reference or save. Instapaper is perfect for pages you want to read later; that’s it. Magazine articles, blog posts, essays, they can all be saved and re-read in a simple text-only (or the original) format. Plus, it extends onto iPhones, the Kindle, and so on.
  • posterous: posterous is to Delta as the rest of the internet is to Southwest. Delta pioneered the hub-and-spoke transportation system: start in one place and go out from there (all airlines do that now, it’s efficient… in theory). The internet could work in a similar way: simply start at posterous and push your content (photos, text, video) out from there: YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter. It’s much easier for me to post one photo over on my photo blog and have posterous do the heavy lifting than me individually posting to Flickr, Facebook and then twitter. Check this diagram for more on the hub concept.
  • foursquare: where are my friends? I visit foursquare (via iPhone, Android, web, etc.) and I know. If I want to discover fun restaurants or bars I can simply look at where people visit a lot (mayorships), read tips, or explore nearby favorites. 
  • dopplr: I love to travel and I love to visualize it. dopplr simply creates a map and a timeline of where I’ve been and where I’m going. Throw in some niceties (posting via twitter, sharing flickr photos from the travel) and this is my favorite web application thus far.
The best part of web applications (as opposed to iPhone applications, or Windows applications, or Facebook applications) is that they share a key value that we may be slipping away from: widespread availability. The network is the platform.
Yes, there is value when all my friends are on Facebook; we can all play the same game together or we can share content. Installing an iPhone application means it is faster, beautiful, and can do things that a website can’t (the gap is narrowing, though). But, applications shouldn’t begin on those closed platforms first, should they?