Seven Ways to Explore the Internet

Like the universe, the internet is vast and ever expanding. It doesn’t take much to get overwhelmed or worse lost and end up in a bad neighborhood. So how does one find interesting websites to visit without the drama of getting mug by spam? Well in the same places that webmasters go to advertise them.

Link Pages

If you already have a few places that you visit look around those sites for a links page. Most webmasters are web surfers too and many will list their favorite finds either on the sidebar of their blog or on a page dedicated to linkage. Chances are, if you like their site, then you may like what they pick out. Beware, however, of links labels “Sponsored Links”. Those are ads and clicking on them may lead you to a spam site.

Also check out the site’s comment section and guest book. Other visitors to the site will often leave a link to their site along with a note to the owner. Depending on the site and the webmaster’s tolerance level, you may run into spam but sometimes you also hit pay dirt.

Directories

Directories attempt to put the web into some semblance of order which makes them a great place to find websites according to your interest. Sites are organized by topic and/or world location. The biggest of these directories is the Open Directory Project run by DMOZ. This directory launched in 1998 and has become host to over 4 millions links to websites through out the web community.

The most notable thing about ODP is that it is human edited which means that a human verifies and approves each submission to filter out the spam. Make sure that any directory you choose is also human edited or you may find yourself winning a gold medal in spam surfing.

Some other notable web directories

Best of the Web

WWW Virtual Library

Yahoo Directory

Starting Point Directory

Traffic Exchange Sites

These sites specialize in traffic exchange. Webmasters sign up their site which then gets put into a database similar to a directory. They then earn credits by visiting other websites listed in the database. If you are feeling adventurous, this is a great way to find new websites of interest. Like the ODP, most traffic exchange programs have editors that approve submissions, however, you will still run into spam sites every once in awhile. Some also allow adult content so if you are offended by that, you need to make sure you have your filter settings configured appropriately.

Probably the largest of these, to my knowledge, is Blogexplosion. Other traffic exchange sites include:

Blogadvance

TrafficG

BlogSoldier

Social Bookmarking Sites

Web 2.0 is all about sharing and, as such, social bookmarking sites are all the rage these days. Social bookmarking is where members find interesting websites, articles, games etc and submit them (or Bookmark them) for community review.

There are two kinds of bookmarking sites, browser based and community based. A browser based bookmarking site such as StumbleUpon, puts code into your web browser so all you have to do is click next and you will be taken to a random page in the site’s database. Community based is where members manually submit links. In most social bookmarking sites, members can vote on and discuss the links submitted making them great places to find both interesting sites and interesting friends.

A few popular bookmarking sites:

StumbleUpon

Digg

Reddit

Del.icio.us

Web Portals

Web portals are websites that often serve as pathways to other content and personalized services. Unless you changed your homepage, when you first log onto the internet, chances are the first page that comes up is your Internet Service Providers web portal. Some other popular web portals are Yahoo, Google and MSN.

These portals often aggregate news from various sources all over the internet and some have a directory of content that you can add to your personal homepage. Because I use several of Google’s services, it was a natural step for me to create a personalize homepage that allows me to access those services when I sign in. It’s nice to have everything in one place and the content coming to me rather than clicking all over the internet in search of it.

Signing up for a personal portal page often requires that you sign up for or with an email address. This is how they keep track of your personalized options.

Forum Signatures

Forums are the equivalent of your grandmother’s sewing circle. People come together in one place to discuss common interests or, more often than not, just to gossip. Most forum members operate websites and blogs and will advertise them via a link in the signature section of their posts. How much spam you come into contact with is directly proportional to the type of forum you join. Webmaster type forums seem to attract spammers like crazy whereas Susan’s Sewing Circle will mostly likely contain only like minded forum members.

Search Engines

A game I like to play sometimes is to type a random word into the search engines and see what comes up. I’ve run into some of the best sites doing this. Even if you are searching for something specific, don’t be afraid to wander through all the pages that come up. You may be surprised at what you find.

Happy hunting!

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