Staying Connected

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Let your mobile device improve your social life. Use this service to corral friends for a drink, or to find out where they're already hanging — all you do is text-message the mother ship, and she does the rest (the service locates you, checks which of your buds are nearby, and sends out the appropriate alerts). And the Dodgeball team keeps growing: now at play in 22 cities.

It's the place where Web stars are born, music and film careers are launched and some single people manage to find mates. This exploding social-networking site is now the most popular website in the U.S., boasting some 100 million registered members. In the last year, traffic jumped from 17 million unique visitors per month to 54 million — more than Yahoo gets some weeks. As a member (it's free) you can post all sorts of content — blogs, photos, videos, MP3s — to your profile page; get a few hundred thousand other "friends" to link to it and Bam! you're on the pop-culture map. Marketers may even come calling, hoping to piggyback on the exposure. MySpace's wild popularity has inspired a slew of startups to create features and applications specifically for MySpacers — like Rojo Networks' "Nooz" ticker, which links to the day's top stories, based on how many other members are reading them. In July Web humorist Ze Frank hosted an ugliest MySpace page contest; David Lehre's parody, "MySpace, The Movie," is a YouTube favorite. There's even a mobile phone — the Helio Hero — offering one-button access to MySpace so you can view pages and respond to friends on the go. Think MySpace is too "young" for you? New social network Eons is targeting the 50-plus crowd.

In geekspeak, it's an IM unifier. In plain English, it's a one-stop shop for all your instant-messaging needs. Which is to say that Meebo puts all your IM clients — the individual programs that make instant-messaging services incompatible with one another — into one browser window. There's no need to download all the different apps (MSN, AOL/ICQ, Yahoo, Jabber/Gtalk) to your computer to have any and all types of IM conversations. Available in four dozen languages.

Your friends and family mock, but you don't care: you love karaoke. SingShot makes it easy to find fellow crooners, and share each other's best work — call it YouTube for karaoke. Subscribe to the site (it costs $9.95 per month, or $4.95 per month for an annual subscription) and you can upload your home recordings for others to enjoy; members vote for their favorites. You just need reasonably good PC speakers and a microphone connected to the right jack in the back of your computer; the site streams the lyrics in a video window while the song plays. There's a wide selection — everything from the Beatles to Michelle Branch — and the original recording is your accompaniment (no Muzak here). Fox Interactive's works pretty much the same way, and it's been around longer, so it has more users and a larger library of tunes — but while SingShot is compatible with all browsers, kSolo only works in Internet Explorer.

Google Spreadsheets
As the name suggests, this free Web-based application, one of the latest to come out of Google's shop, will help you organize information into a tidy chart, tabs and all. But the best part about the elegant interface is that it encourages collaboration. That is, it allows multiple users, logged in from different computers, to update the same spreadsheet simultaneously while text-chatting in a separate window. (The chart is stored on a Google server, rather than locally on a PC's hard drive.) You can invite others to edit or view your spreadsheet with a quick email without leaving the page. Google, having recently purchased is expected to introduce a similar free tool for writers who wish to collaborate in real time.