THE BEST WEBSITES OF 1996

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1 SALON While many have tried, few have succeeded in building a truly compelling magazine (or 'zine) on the World Wide Web. Salon, however, with its mix of daily articles built around a weekly theme, has managed to move to the top of the Web's short must-read list. The site does almost everything right. It looks fresh and dramatic. It loads fast, even on pokey dial-up modems. And it features first-rate writers, including the amusing and tortured essayist Anne Lamott, who alone could be the Best of the Web. salon1999.com)

2 HotWired When it was launched more than two years ago, Wired magazine's Web outpost was so new no one knew what to call it (one press release referred to it as a "cyberstation"). Since then, HotWired has not only defined itself (it's a Website, stupid), it has also set the standard of Web design from flip-file animation to remote-control navigation panels. hotwired.com)

3 The Library of Congress: American Memory A treasure trove of memorabilia converted into easily downloadable recordings, images and text. You can see Walt Whitman's notebooks, Harry Houdini posters, Civil War photographs and a special exhibit devoted to the American variety stage. rs6.loc.gov)

4 Epicurious You've got a pound of sea bass and a fistful of pecans and no clue what to cook? Epicurious offers a huge database filled with recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit maga-zines and lets you search it by keyword. It's better and faster than a cookbook. And it's free. Epicurious is one of the few sites true cybernauts fire up their home modems for. epicurious.com)

5 Amazon This is the best place to do holiday shopping without leaving your house. With 1 million titles in its massive inventory, Amazon is the biggest bookshop on the Web--heck, maybe even the whole world--with virtually every book in print there for the clicking (and mail ordering). You can search by author, subject or title, read reviews written by other Amazon readers and even write your own. amazon.com)

6 Electric Minds Community finally comes to the Web, courtesy of Howard Rheingold, the guy who coined the term virtual community (and wrote the book of that title). This (free) site is the place to go if you want to participate in the wiring together of the global collective consciousness. Or something. minds.com)

7 The Pyramid The best production values on the Web still come from American Cybercast, the company that brought multimedia soap operas to the Internet with The Spot thespot.com). The Pyramid is a dark, futuristic soap set in the Global Oasis Corp., a software company that is rife with conspiracies, lust and browser-busting gimmicks. thepyramid.com)

8 Air Warrior Strap into a Messerschmitt, a Mustang or some other WWII-era plane. Roll down the runway and into cyberspace. The dots you see on the blue horizon are other modem pilots jacking in from locations all over the world. The missions are fun, and the realism is unsurpassed. Along with Quake and Duke Nukem, Air Warrior is proof that online gaming has come of age. freeplay.kesmai.com)

9 NetWits This Microsoft Network game show officially launches this week, but based on what's been seen in sneak previews (super animation, funky music, addictive games), NetWits could be a breakout. Every day some lucky Netizen will win a round-trip air ticket to anywhere. Up to 5,000 can compete in two games nightly. netwits.msn.com)

10 The Kevin Bacon Game The theory is that every actor in Hollywood has appeared in a movie with Kevin Bacon--or co-starred with someone who has. Don't rack your brain to find "six degrees of Bacon"--just type in an actor's name and instantly derive the "Bacon number." cs.virginia.edu/~ bct7m/bacon.html)