40 fantastic time-wasting web sites

Warning: Reading this story may be hazardous to your productivity. The Web sites within may divert you from the dull tasks in need of your attention and may cause you to goof off for hours instead.
  • JR Raphael (PC World (US online))
  • 29 July, 2009 01:06

Warning: Reading this story may be hazardous to your productivity. The Web sites within may divert you from the dull tasks in need of your attention and may cause you to goof off for hours instead.

Oh, who are we kidding? You weren't going to get any work done today, anyway. So you might as well waste time in style--and these sites will help you do it. Figuring that you're already familiar with the Facebooks and YouTubes and Onions of the Net, we decided that any further serious undermining of your motivation to labor entailed digging up some obscure nuggets to commingle with the more familiar destinations. Our only criterion: Every site should be entertaining and habit-forming. And we found 'em--40 of 'em. Now just put up your privacy screen, kick back, and start clicking. Caveat: If you get caught, it won't do you any good to tell your boss that we're the ones who suggested it. And let me say for the record that I didn't waste any time on the organization of this list!

1. Stripgenerator

Hey, get your mind out of the gutter--Stripgenerator is about comic creation, not clothing removal--though we wouldn't claim that the two paths have never crossed. The site lets you build your very own customized comic strip in a matter of minutes. Choose from an array of characters and objects, and then bring your strip to life, one square at a time. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, sign up to start your own "strip blog" and have your content featured on the site's home page.

2. FMyLife

FMyLife (the site isn't entirely clear about what the "F" stands for, but "Flee" wouldn't be inappropriate) encourages people to send in anonymous real-life stories of worst-case scenarios that came horrifyingly true--things you'll just have to read to believe. The stories aren't always G-rated, so visit at your own discretion.

3. LivePlasma

A must-try for any music or film fanatic, LivePlasma helps you find new movies and music by building interactive maps around your current favorites. It's like six degrees of separation, customized to your cultural interests.

4. Cracked

The onetime competitor to Mad Magazine has reinvented itself as a Web site for all things funny. Cracked has an array of amusing lists, stories, and videos that'll keep you laughing for days.

5. BeFunky.com

Add some pizzazz to your profile pic with BeFunky.com. The site's Web-based application lets you easily morph any photo into a cartoony character or Warhol-like painting.

6. Funny Typos

Grammar geeks will delight in Funny Typos, a site devoted to ridiculing the language-challenged among us. Why people cant menage to reed there writhing batter is simpy a misery to me.

7. Safety Graphic Fun

Do park visitors generally need to be told "Please do not sit on crocodile"? Must employees at a company parking lot be reminded "Do Not Sleep Below the Vehicle"? Silly as these things sound, they're actual warnings posted on public safety signs. Safety Graphic Fun works to compile the most ridiculous placards, outlandish announcements, and attorney-inspired posterior papering from around the world, some of which are astonishingly absurd. My favorite: "Touching wires causes instant death. $200 fine."

8. Virtual NES

Go old-school and play dozens of original Nintendo games online. Once you get accustomed to the keyboard-based commands, even the most determined Koopa Troopas won't be able to pull you away.

9. Pogo

Find a wider selection of time-wasting games at Pogo. See if you can spell success in Scrabble, dominate at Dominoes, or ride the Reading Railroad to a sweet Monopoly victory.

10. Omegle

Interact with total strangers in the strange new world of Omegle. This simple site pops you into a one-on-one chat room with a random person, and there's no telling where the conversation may take you.

Next: Lifehacker and nine other tasty tidbits

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Time-Wasting Web Sites 11-20

11. Lifehacker

Losing track of time is all too easy at Lifehacker. The blog teaches you tricks for navigating the complexity of life with fewer bumps, serving up advice on topics ranging from cooling a scorching car to clearing up circles under your eyes.

12. Answerbag

Answerbag is all about interesting and instant information. Post a query about almost anything and get answers within minutes, or browse through other people's Q&A to be enlightened, disgusted, and entertained.

13. FailBlog

"Fail" is the blogger-adored modern stamp of disapproval for anything that falls below whatever arbitrary standard a critic feels like imposing. The proprietors of FailBlog.org open the "fail" doors to the world, encouraging readers to submit images of people, places, or things that in one way or another didn't work out right, and then inviting all visitors to vote on how many thumbs down the depicted blunder deserves. Whether the specimen under the FailBlog microscope is a poorly designed building or a curious case of inconsistent pricing, the site's findings are sure to generate some laughter wins.

14. Slashdot

Slashdot is the granddaddy of all tech time-wasters. Pursuing its mission of delivering "news for nerds," Slashdot posts a cornucopia of geeky information, complete with snarky comments and community discussion.

15. Fark

When you want a tantalizing tale with a sensational twist, turn your browser toward Fark. The site collects the Web's hottest and strangest stories, pointing you to standout content as well as to obscure local items that you might otherwise have missed.

16. Popurls

Popurls makes it easy for you to keep up with all of the Web's headlines. The jam-packed aggregator presents the most popular content from social media sites, news sites, and even video sites in a simple-to-use single page.

17. Fuzzwich

Step into the director's chair with Fuzzwich, a fun site that lets you build your own video animations. You pick the setting and the characters, and then customize them with faces cropped from your personal photos. Then, you use the site's editing program to move the characters around and have them interact. Once you get tot he stage of adding music and text bubbles, you'll be hooked. Fuzzwich even offers embed codes so you can show off your creation all over the Web.

18. My Parents Joined Facebook

Parents and social media don't always mix. See sidesplitting screenshots of what happens when generations collide at My Parents Joined Facebook, a blog about uncomfortable family encounters in the virtual world. Remember, you can choose your friends but you can't choose your relatives.

19. Passive-Aggressive Notes

Oh-no-she-didn't. Indulge your inner Springer with a visit to Passive-Aggressive Notes, where you can take a long, leisurely inside look at other people's petty, infantile squabbles, all laced with not-so-subtle passive-aggressive undertones and innuendo.

20. Break.com

Videos that are just itching to go viral await you at Break.com. You'll find more funny, sexy, and scandalous clips here than you would in Paris Hilton's entire home-video collection--and that's saying something.

Next: Twitterfall and nine other tasty tidbits

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Time-Wasting Web Sites 21-30

21. Twitterfall

Yeah, yeah--everyone spends too much time on Twitter. But Twitterfall offers a new way to connect with your fellow tweeters and discover interesting conversations. Just type in the term of your choice or select an option from the list of current hot trends, and Twitterfall will start dropping in related updates, one by one. You can control how quickly the tweets fall, and you can stipulate any number of combined terms that the tweets must include.

22. Tweeting Too Hard

For all of Twitter's strengths, it seems to attract an inordinate number of tools whose tweets make you cringe. At Tweeting Too Hard, you can browse through Twitter's most "self-important tweets," voting up the worst offenders with sarcastic "back pats" as you go.

23. Lunchtimers

Cast a spell on your productivity with this virtual magnetic message board. Join other people in shifting big bright plastic-looking letters around, like the ones on your parents' refrigerator when you were a kid, or draw on a collective scratchpad to see what comes out.

24. GraphJam

GraphJam gives humor a statistical edge by inviting users to create funny graphs or charts that illustrate various aspects of life. One recent submission attempted to break down the content of Yahoo Answers (65 percent material for FailBlog; 25 percent spam; 10 percent legitimate questions). GraphJam makes it a cinch to build your own satirical analyses; and with in-site voting and embed codes a-plenty, you'll have no shortage of time-wasting toys.

25. Songza

Search for songs across the Web and play them to your heart's content at Songza. The site finds both audio and video files from multiple sources, and then allows you to create playlists and share them via Facebook or Twitter.

26. iMeem

Video isn't its specialty, but iMeem excels at tracking down the music tracks you want. Find and stream your favorite tunes and save them to custom playlists. A quick caution: You do have to create a free account to gain access to the site's full functionality.

27. Patently Silly

Hello, sir or madam, may I interest you in a retractable table top for your toilet today? That's just one of many wacky inventions featured on Patently Silly, which displays some of America's most unusual patents.

28. AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com

Family photos are always awkward, but some go beyond the typical intergenerational tension and tiptoe into disquieting new territory. AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com pursues the mission of finding and flaunting the most unbearably awkward images from real photo albums submitted by real users.

So what constitutes awkward? Oh, I don't know...maybe having a medium-size marsupial on your arm, hovering near the back of a child's head and eying his tousled hair as potential nesting material? Yeah. And you thought your sister's braces were bad.

29. Texts From Last Night

If only you could find out what all those college girls were constantly texting about. Oh, wait--you can. Texts From Last Night collects the most insane (and allegedly real) late-night texts from users, shame included. You can imagine the kind of language and subject matter involved, so click through at your own risk.

30. Truu Confessions

For slightly less succinct (and usually less salacious) confessions, surf over to Truu Confessions. There, people of all ages anonymously submit their deepest secrets and await your reactions.

Next: PostSecret and nine other tasty tidbits

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Time-Wasting Web Sites 31-40

31. PostSecret

With a decidedly less high-tech but far more innovative approach, PostSecret publishes actual postcards mailed in by people looking to share their deepest secrets. The site's creators call it an "ongoing community art project." (For more on PostSecret and other sites like it, read "Online Confessions: The Web Bares Its Soul.")

32. Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency

The name may not be memorable, but the content at McSweeney's Lists site is tough to forget. The site features page after page of random and often hilarious lists--"Rarely Used Parenthetical Statements," for example, or "A Picnic Date Ending in an Awkward Sexual Encounter, Told Chronologically Through Board-Game Titles."

33. Totally Looks Like

I'll bet you never noticed how much Perez Hilton looks like the Grinch, or how similar Daisy De La Hoya is to 80s singer Pete Burns. The user-driven community of Totally Looks Like did, though. Intrigued?

34. Monoface

Who needs look-alikes when you can build your own face? Monoface, the brainchild of a Minneapolis-based ad agency, lets you play Mr. Potato Head with real people. Click to combine different eyes, noses, and mouths until you find a suitably funny combination. With nearly 760,000 possibilities, it'll take you a while to run out of steam.

35. The Genuine Haiku Generator

what fun, this quaint site

creates haikus on demand

english teachers frown

36. FreeRice

Play trivia and make a difference with FreeRice. Every time you get an answer right, the site donates 10 grains of rice to global hunger programs. FreeRice is run by the United Nations World Food Program and uses revenue from in-site ads to pay for the food.

37. Archive.org

A world of data awaits you at Archive.org. The site is home to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, where you can look up versions of Web pages dating back to 1996. It also hosts the Live Music Archive, an impressive collection of free live concerts.

38. Pets in Clothes

The Hot or Not craze of the early 2000s gets an aww-inducing update with Pets in Clothes, a site dedicated to cute animals wearing cute duds. From cats in sunglasses to dogs in nurse outfits, the cuddly images just keep on coming. Taking a cue from the Hot or Not model, Pets in Clothes progresses through photos by having you rate each image on a scale of 1 to 10. And of course, you can submit your own pet pics for inclusion.

39. There, I Fixed It

Think your handiwork is bad? See some of the worst excuses for quick fixes at There, I Fixed It, an ever-expanding gallery of the most pitiful repair jobs performed all over the globe.

40. Homestar Runner

Cult favorite Homestar Runner is still going strong. Start with the latest Strongbad E-Mail missives and gain a whole new appreciation for the all-powerful Lappy 486 and, of course, scroll buttons and random. Keep on scrollin' on, friends.

Got a favorite time-wasting Web site we didn't mention? Add it in the comments section below. Just make sure it's worth our time.

When not wasting time on Twitter, Contributing Editor JR Raphael fine-tunes the scroll buttons on his new geek-humor site, eSarcasm.