The EContent team suggests some sites, projects, and resources that - while outside the scope of the EContent 100 list - are well worth taking a closer look at.
Blogging, in existence for less than five years, has made the jump from diary for the tech-savvy to genuine communication tool and is even, "beginning to make inroads into the enterprise as an informal tool for communicating internally, as well as externally with customers," according to EContent writer Ron Miller.
Perhaps the single most popular weblog tool, Blogger offers users a way to automate the process of publishing a blog and eliminate the need for hand coding. Users provide Blogger with a template of their page, indicating where they would like the site to reside, then submit updates directly to Blogger. "Blogger (now owned by Google) provide[s] a relatively easy way for people to not only get their thoughts and ideas onto to the Web, but also to allow people access to simple Web design tools," says Miller. For those who already have a Web site, starting a blog is as simple as getting FTP access to the site; Blogger will create sites for users without existing ones. Blogger is free for basic use, although they ask that users include a link on their site back to Blogger.com. Until October 2003, Blogger also offered Blogger Pro, a subscription version that included a variety of advanced features, but that service has since been discontinued and most of the features have been rolled into the free version.
If the United States of America were a corporation, then FirstGov.gov would be the best intranet from sea to shining sea.
Historically, few have looked to the government for technological innovation, but FirstGov is changing the way many citizens find a variety of valuable information. The portal, administered by the U.S. General Services Administration, originated as the gift of a search engine by Internet entrepreneur Eric Brewer and his non-profit organization the Federal Search Foundation and went live September 22, 2000. Since then it has grown to include more than 186 million pages of searchable information from federal and state governments. FirstGov also includes information on local governments, tribal information, sections for children, seniors, and military personnel, as well as information on everything from applying for student financial assistance to renewing your driver's license to getting a passport. "Turns out that one of the most important innovations in EGov is also the simplest: provide access to federal information and services without making the citizenry guess which agency Web site they have to slog though," says EContent contributing editor Tony Byrne. "Technically, FirstGov is a ‘portal,' but really it is a large (and very successful) experiment in content classification and citizen intention analysis."
2003 saw its share of file-sharing frays, but one name has not yet made it into the average American's lexicon: Freenet.
Freenet was designed as a free software that allows users to publish and share information anonymously; the way it routes data makes it virtually impossible to track who supplies or requests information, or what that information may be. Freenet's creator, Ian Clarke, started from less of a freedom-of-speech standpoint than a technological one when he realized that storing replicated documents in multiple locations would enable faster retrieval by users. Freenet does not follow the usual rules of peer-to-peer networks, as it does not allow users to control what information is maintained in a given data store. Files are expunged or held based on their popularity and all data is encrypted to avoid censorship. Currently boasting almost two million users, Freenet seeks to use its P2P powers for good by offering more than Napster and its ilk ever did, including message boards, content distribution, and publishing Web sites.