The internet is a big place, and there’s no shame in not having explored every last corner of it – but just in case you’ve missed out on some of the very best sites the web has to offer, we’re going to pick out a few lesser-known highlights from our travels that are well worth adding to your bookmarks.
1) Simple Wikipedia
Wikipedia... but simplified. That’s the general premise of Simple Wikipedia, as its name might indicate, and like the main Wikipedia, it’s run by volunteers. It’s smaller than the Wikipedia you’re used to, but it’s also easier to understand, using around 1,500 common English words to describe the big topics and subjects.
It’s particularly helpful when you’re trying to get your head around topics like general relativity, supermassive black holes, or computer networks. You won’t find entries for everything you look up, but there are close to 150,000 articles now, and it’s also great for students, kids, and anyone learning English.
2) Project Gutenberg
You don’t have to stay bound to the Amazon Kindle ebook store (or whatever store you get your ebooks from), because the volunteer-maintained Project Gutenberg has more than 59,000 digital tomes available completely free of charge – most of them are now in the public domain having had their copyright expire.
If you don’t have an ereader to hand, you can just read the books and stories through your browser, without even signing up for an account or anything complicated like that. With titles like Pride and Prejudice, Ulysses, and famous authors like Dickens and Conan Doyle, there are plenty of classics here to entertain readers.
There are all kinds of ways to identify songs in TV shows and movies – not least using an app like Shazam while the music is actually playing – but if you need to name a song you’ve heard after you’re home from the cinema or watched a Netflix episode, Tunefind has you covered. It has a huge database of movies and shows to scroll through, as well as lists of what other people are searching for.
Beyond finding lists of featured tunes and soundtrack songs, the site also provides links to find the music on Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, so you can quickly check you’ve found the song you’re looking for. If you’ve got some knowledge to share, you can contribute to the site as well.
If you need to know just how good or bad your internet connection is, Ookla’s Speedtest can tell you. What we like about this site, compared to others like it, is that you get ping times and upload speeds as well as the usual download speed results, plus a bunch of extra info like your IP address.
You can use the site as is without logging in, but if you do sign up for a free account, you can track speeds over time and in different locations, as well as compare your results against other users in your part of the world.
Sometimes you need to switch to a different app or website that’s like one you’re currently using. Or maybe you want to discover new apps and sites that are similar to ones you already use. In these scenarios and others like them, AlternativeTo can help.
It’s a huge crowdsourced database of alternatives to tens of thousands of apps and websites, so whether you’re looking for an alternative to Facebook or Gizmodo, you’ll find some handy pointers here. It also works as a resource for looking up more information on apps and sites as well.
6) OneLook Reverse Dictionary
An invaluable tool for anyone who does any writing – or indeed any communication of any kind – the OneLook Reverse Dictionary will tell you the word that’s on the tip of your tongue, as long as you can input a few words that explain its meaning. It can be hit and miss, but it’s mostly hits, as long as your input makes sense.
So whether you can’t remember the word for the urge to travel or the fear of clowns, the OneLook Reverse Dictionary can help you out. It provides a whole host of other useful features as well, including word definitions and synonyms.
7) The Internet Archive
A treasure trove of valuable resources, the Internet Archive covers websites, software, and more besides in its mission to build “a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts” on the web. It’s been going since 1996 and how has millions of images, videos, audio recordings and texts you can sift through.
Of most note is the Wayback Machine part of the Internet Archive, which lets you take a dip into the ancient history of many popular websites... ancient as in the early 2000s. Just enter a URL or some keywords to look up a site and reminisce, and make sure you check out some earlier versions of Gizmodo.
8) A Good Movie To Watch
Some evenings, you just want a good movie to watch – which is where agoodmovietowatch comes in. Run by a small team of writers and editors, it relies on human picks rather than algorithms to recommend “highly-rated, but little-known” movies currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
“Netflix’s algorithm is a corporate algorithm,” says site founder Bilal Zou. “This means that it’s more interested in selling you new titles that Netflix spent money on rather than recommending what’s actually good... If you see it here, we’ve watched it and completely vouch for it.”
9) What Should I Read Next?
From movie recommendations to reading recommendations: What Should I Read Next? doesn’t mess around with any complicated rankings or input options. Instead, it asks you to name a book that you’ve recently read and enjoyed, then serves up recommendations of others that you’re probably going to like.
It works by pulling data from lists compiled by other users, and seeing which books often appear together – you’re essentially crowdsourcing your next book recommendation. If you like, you can register a free account and compile a list or two of your own.
We’ve flagged up Noisli before, but it continues to fly under a lot of people’s radars. It’s the best site we’ve found for streaming endless background noise, whether it’s the click-clack of a train on a track, the tinkle of coffee cups getting cleared away, or the sound of wind whistling through the trees.
You can either click on one of the presets – Random, Productivity, or Relax – or use the sliders to adjust the sounds and the sound levels yourself. If you hit upon a mix you really like, the site lets you save it for the future.
High quality, high resolution, royalty-free images are challenging to find on the web, but Unsplash is packed full of them. “The concept was born from the pain we had in finding great, usable imagery,” the site creators write. “Today, Unsplash is a platform fueled by a community that has generously gifted hundreds of thousands of their own photos.”
You can reuse these pictures for whatever you want, and you don’t even need to leave a credit (though it is recommended). Unsplash is particularly good for finding wallpapers for your laptop and phone, and while the search box is the best way into the site, it offers plenty of curated collections and editor picks as well.