If you really want to understand the world of the internet, the best way is to jump in and experience the daily craziness. Here are five sites that (in my opinion) have their finger on the pulse of the web.
Although mainstream Reddit is becoming less of an internet-news site and more of a meme factory, there are still quite a few places on the site that are incredibly interesting and showcase the power of the internet.
Reddit is a link-sharing site. That is, people post links to media hosted elsewhere, and Reddit provides a platform to comment on and share that media. Posts are organized by votes, so that the community decides what is important and interesting on any given day.
The “frontpage” of Reddit, which you see when you visit, is actually a conglomeration of various “Sub-Reddits”, which are focused communities of interest, centered around a hobby or common trait. It doesn’t matter if you’re into photography, videogames, or even My Little Pony, there’s a Sub-Reddit for your interest. There are even quite a few meta-Sub-Reddits, which deal with issues on Reddit itself.
Reddit.com is one of the most community-centered sites I have ever been on, with kindness (as well as cruelty) escaping the bounds of the internet. If you want to know what media is hot on the internet today, just visit Reddit and click away.
Although it may take you some time to create a well-curated list of tumblr blogs to follow, Tumblr is another internet community that is right now going strong.
Meanwhile, DeviantArt is a repository of original content creation, the hangout for many, many aspiring artists. The main draw of these sites is the immense amount of art uploaded to them every day.
Just like other social media sites, Tumblr allows you to follow whatever interests you, so you’ll have to find your own way on the site. DeviantArt does have a firehose stream, but you can also choose artists to follow to have your own curated list.
I’m not going to link to 4chan from here, since it has a bit of a bad reputation, but the site still maintains somewhat of a high pedestal for knowing what’s what on the internet.
Despite 4chan’s reputation, there are a few SFW boards that maintain a solid stream of content creation and creative output.
I can’t advocate going on 4chan (and I don’t myself), but a list of popular internet sites without 4chan is quite incomplete.
5. Hacker News
Hacker News is Silicon Valley’s Reddit. A media sharing site for startups, innovators, and content creators. If you’re looking to really have a feel for what people who run the tech companies of the world are talking about, spend some time on Hacker News.
Hacker News has no sub-genres, although it does split off “Show HN” for content and “HN Jobs” for finding employment. That means that all ~35K users see whatever is on the front page. But among those 35K users are some of the best and brightest technology and social leaders of our time.
Among all of these sites, Hacker News is easily the best place for news and internet content, since it holds its posts to a very high standard. It’s often faster than Reddit for tech news as well, often about a day ahead of the rest of the internet.