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39 brilliant interactive websites & services

Web 2.0 survival guide: go beyond browsing

Go beyond browsing. With these 39 exceptionally interactive websites and services, you can do anything from launching a private social network to publishing your own book. Here's our Web 2.0 survival guide.

BUILD A SOCIAL NETWORK

If you've moved beyond Facebook, LinkedIn and Orkut and are ready to help you build your own online community, either for personal or professional use. These sites will let you create a social network – complete with discussion forums, RSS feeds, member profiles and other essentials.

Constructing a simple social network costs nothing, but you may want to upgrade to the sites' paid-for services as your network gains members, or to remove the ads that display on networks you build.

The best design tools we've seen for building a social network are at Ning. Organise your network's main page by dragging a text box, forum widget or other component into the layout window. Then select fonts, colours, background images and other page elements.

Invite friends and associates by importing addresses from web-based email clients such as AOL Mail, Gmail, MSN Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. Your finished product will have a polished and professional appearance.

Nexo comes a close second. This provides a great site builder that's simple enough for anyone to use. Choose a design template or start out with a blank page and insert your choice of more than two dozen modules, including forums, feeds, images and polls.

The page-design tools at KickApps are targeted at web-savvy developers who've built sites before. Getting your KickApps network to look the way you want may take time, but experienced designers will appreciate the site's advanced toolkit.

For people whose web-design experience ends with their MySpace profile, there's SnappVille, where setting up a network is a breeze. You won't find Ning's customisation tools or KickApps' developer-friendly features, and the site has a few quirks; for example, you can't upload a video into the viewer, but must instead import a feed directly from a webcam.

The service is for personal, rather than professional, networks.

CollectiveX offers business-friendly features but lacks the customisation and hand-holding options that you can find on other social-networking sites.

You can import contacts directly from Outlook and Outlook Express, as well as from the major webmail clients. Setup is a bit confusing; the service could use more Ning-style help guides.

However, your finished CollectiveX page will be nicely organised and visually appealing.

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