Like any respectable sport, Web surfing offers plenty of opportunity for gathering statistics. Frequency of content updates, average download time, and hit counts all are fair game for rating a site's performance.
If this interests you, check out Alexa, a free, ad-supported service for searching and rating Web pages. The latest version is Alexa for Internet Explorer 5, a quick download that enhances the new browser's search features and displays stats about each site you visit.
If you already use IE5 you've probably noticed the Related Links feature, which lists sites that are similar to the one you're viewing. This feature borrows a page from the Alexa add-on, but skips several others. To get the rest of the picture, you can download the 65KB Alexa for IE5, which appears as a pane on the left side of your browser. The pane can be viewed horizontally to save space, though not as much information will be displayed.
Alexa for IE5 shows related links and displays user rankings for each site you visit, if votes have been cast, as well as user input on download speed and the "freshness" of content. Background information on the site's creators also displays, including postal address, phone number, and investor information -- which lists key executives and competitors, among other fun facts. You can quickly jump to site reviews from Yahoo Internet Life and Britannica.
Click the Alexa logo and you're taken to the Insider's Page, which displays rankings across the Web, such as the top ten sites that Alexa users visited most often and the top five portals. The page also shows a set of interesting -- if not too useful -- factoids, such as the most widely used start page on the Internet (http://home.microsoft.com) and the most commonly typed URL for a site that doesn't exist (http://worldnet.att.net).
For the most part, Alexa is useful and fun -- a winning add-on for IE5.
Alexa will be available on the cover CD of PC World, July.