No one can issue an honest list of "best" Internet sites. The Internet is too big, and so is the word best. As the Web penetrates its way into more and more of our lives, best becomes entirely relative. is great for one-stop shopping, and perhaps the best e-commerce site by some standards, but if it's something specific I'm after, I can usually find it cheaper somewhere else. The following, therefore, is a list of the best sites I use regularly; these are the URLs at the top of my bookmark list.

There's a reason this site crashed repeatedly when it first launched: it may be the best thing to happen to the Internet since the Mosaic browser was released back in 1993. For the past decade, it has been difficult to find information on the Web that was both reliable and extensive. The Britannica folks could have just offered the text of their encyclopedias and would have had one of the best sites online. But they went so much further, offering news, Web site ratings, magazine articles, and other features. In essence, they've become something the Internet has always needed: an editor.

Speaking of reliable information, the best news sites on the Web are still those founded by traditional forms of media: The New York Times,, CNN, BBC, etc. is essentially a search engine for news sites, and works far better than any of the others I've visited. Visitors can browse the news by region or topic, but since I normally use it to find religion stories, I usually just use the search box. It works wonderfully, especially if you know how to use boolean expressions. The engine still returns several unrelated hits, but it's well worth the effort.


"Yahoo!?" I can hear some readers' jaws dropping already. Its search capabilities can be horrendous at times (Christianity Today, for example, has no description; Christian History magazine isn't even listed). And I agree. For searching, go somewhere else: Google wins my vote for most types of searches. But for information—still the Internet's raison d'être—Yahoo! thrills me daily. Its best resource, in my opinion, is its "Full Coverage" area. Want to know the latest on the Confederate Flag debate? Yahoo! has links to news stories, audio clips, newspaper editorials, and related Web sites. Its religion news coverage is also one of the best Internet resources on the topic. I often worry that by offering everything from auctions to travel services, Yahoo! will spread itself too thin. So far, unbelievably, there's little evidence of it. Though I'd love its index of Web sites to be more extensive, the only major thing I'd change about Yahoo! is that stupid exclamation mark.

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Salon, once king of the Web magazines, has apparently issued an ultimatum to its writers mandating that all articles have a sexual angle. (It's become Nerve with articles about Linux.) Meanwhile, Slate gave up its experiment at paid subscriptions and went free again in February. Nice move, but its redesign in May was even better; Slate became one of the most usable, readable journals on the Web. Slate's longer articles are often very good, but its strength continues to be metajournalism, especially its "Today's Papers," "In Other Magazines," and "Egghead" departments. And "News Quiz" has to be one of the most original regular humor features on the Web.


Dave Eggers is the darling of the New York magazine world, which is somewhat strange because he has such an obvious disdain for it. He was an editor for Esquire after his satire magazine Might folded, but left disgusted to found McSweeney's, perhaps the best hybridization of a print and Internet magazine around. The Web version leans strongly toward the satire end, but without the over-the-top (and sometimes crass) jokiness of The Onion. I can't take too much of it at a sitting, but I've had enough satisfying visits to the Web site to warrant a subscription to the print version.

As I type this, I'm listening to a song by one of my favorite bands, a Swedish folk group named Vasen. No radio station I know of regularly plays Swedish folk music (one up in Stockholm or Minneapolis might, but I doubt it)., like so many of the other streaming music providers online, combines the best of radio with the best of CDs. It's like radio in that it plays a mix of music (some songs I've heard, some I haven't) in a specific genre. From CDs, it draws that uninterrupted, commercial-free quality, and it allows me to tune into genres that I'd never hear on the radio but that I love nonetheless (ambient, Chicago blues, Octoberfest, klezmer, etc). is only one of many services, but I've found that the quality is better: it has better songs and better technology than Netradio, for example. One disappointment: only two of Spinner's more than 120 channels are devoted to Christian music (Christian and Gospel).

Jim Romenesko's and Obscure Store & Reading Room

The Internet has yielded surprisingly few stars so far, especially in the writing world. The authors of Slate and Salon have some fans, but Jim Romenesko's sites are probably the best one-man operations around. Both sites are Weblogs: notes recent journalism-related stories, and Obscure Store links readers to strange and wacky stories appearing online (almost always from traditional media sources). A former police reporter, university instructor, and magazine writer, Romenesko has proved he has a great nose for other sites' news.

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PBS's site used to essentially serve as an impressive jumping-off point to its show's sites. The PBS home page is still largely a showcase for its interior sites (like "Frontline," "The American Experience," and "Washington Week in Review") but it has made great strides in organizing the site topically. Clicking "Arts" gives you a list of subtopics ("Pop & Folk Art") and related interior pages ("American Quilts"). Where is excellent in searchable information, PBS is king in browsing information.

The Ecole Initiative

There are so many good church history sources online that it's sometimes overwhelming—even for a fan of the topic like me. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library and Internet Medieval Sourcebook are two fantastic areas, but there are many more. Fortunately, the Ecole Initiative has organized much of the information topically. Maintained by the University of Evansville, the site offers links to primary sources, biographies, images, timelines, and articles about major characters and events from Christian history. A must-bookmark resource, along with, for Christians interesting in learning more about their heritage.

Ship of Fools

In lists of great Christian sites, the U.K.-based Ship of Fools often goes unmentioned. It's a pity. "The magazine of Christian unrest" is based largely in humor, satire, and self-deprecation, with areas like "The Fruitcake Zone," "Gadgets for God," and "Urban Myths." But it's more than just a Christian joke site. The editors really care about reforming the church, and the humor is intended as corrective. It also includes thoughtful, serious articles and interviews. In other words, Ship of Fools is what The Door was in its best days.Ted Olsen is Online Editor of Christianity Today and

Related Elsewhere

For a second opinion, read today's other article on the top Internet sites of 1999, by Matt Donnelly.

Last week, we took a look at the best books, TV, music, and films of 1999.