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.

We're enjoying the web's second great creative bloom. Speedy connections, sophisticated browser-based applications and portable devices that can bring the net wherever you roam make collaborating, creating and socialising online more addictively useful than ever.

But how does it all work – and, more importantly, how can you make it all work for you?

Over the following pages, we'll reveal the tools and tricks that'll help you unlock the power of Web 2.0: the new and improved internet.

The web isn't a spectator sport. While you can watch videos, chat to friends and enjoy countless other low-brainwave activities online, the internet's outlets for self-expression and creativity are boundless.

In fact, the medium doesn't come alive until you take advantage of the participatory web – the sites and services that can present you and your talents to the world.

Whatever your passion – creating video, networking with friends or colleagues, blogging, running a business, making music or publishing a novel – you're bound to find a site that can help you pursue your goals. While many of these services are free, others may charge from a few pounds to thousands.

Rather than let you make expensive mistakes, we've done the legwork for you. Here are our favourites in each category.

NEXT PAGE: become a video star > >

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.

BECOME A VIDEO STAR

The best thing about a lot of video-posting websites is that they let you earn cash based on the number of views your videos generate. And, for the fledgling auteur, some can help you get discovered by the entertainment industry.

Metacafe claims it has more than a million visitors a day, but equally important to video creators is the site's revenue-sharing scheme.

Metacafe pays $5 (£2.50) for every 1,000 views, although payments don't arrive until your clip receives 20,000 views and an average viewer rating of 3 stars (out of 5).

Another income-sharing site is Revver, which offers a 50:50 revenue split based on views and advert clicks. You can disable the ads that run before your video starts. Some Revver clips play on Verizon Wireless VCast phones, which increases your opportunity for cash and exposure.

Revver

If you're waiting for Hollywood to discover you, Crackle can be your online casting agent. This Sony-owned site limits file uploads to 100MB, so don't post your feature film here. Crackle's contests offer prizes such as pitch meetings with studio executives.

Crackle

NEXT PAGE: more video-sharing sites > >

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.

IN THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR

Several innovative features distinguish Veoh, a hidden gem whose video-playback quality is a notch above that of most sites. If you've got an account on MySpace or YouTube, Veoh automatically posts your clip to those sites too (you must activate this feature first). And there's no size limit on video uploads, which makes a refreshing change.

Veoh

It's no secret that YouTube has the biggest audience of video viewers, so naturally you'll want to post your masterpiece there.

YouTube's playback quality isn't great, particularly when compared with that of Crackle and some of the newer sites. You won't find a video site that's easier to use, however, and its Video Toolbox section provides helpful shooting and editing tips from the pros.

Formerly known as iFilm, Spike provides a platform for up-and-coming filmmakers. You can embed your Spike-hosted clips on personal sites, including blogs and MySpace pages.

The service offers no revenue sharing but, while other sites limit you to 100MB, Spike allows uploads as large as 500MB.

Spike

JibJab is the place to submit video jokes: you'll find everything from stand-up routines to the ever-hilarious man getting kicked in the groin. JibJab accepts photo, audio and text jokes too. The site's editors decide whether your bits are funny enough to post; if they're not, well, there's always YouTube.

Yahoo Video lets you link clips to your blog and drive traffic to your site. Videos are dead simple to upload at Google Video too, thanks to the service's intuitive, stripped-down interface. The site provides an optional desktop uploader for files larger than 100MB.

It doesn't offer revenue sharing and we'd like to see more (or at least some) integration with YouTube, but Google Video's big-name pedigree and utter simplicity make it a good place to post your videos.

For more information on online video-sharing sites, click here for our comparative feature

NEXT PAGE: build a social network > >

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.

NEXT PAGE: blogging tools > >

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.

BLOG STANDARDS

Getting your blog read takes more than compelling prose. These sites will help you attract and hold an audience.

Vox has the best blog editor we've tested. To add an image, song or video to an entry, click the appropriate button above the text window. You can embed a reader poll or other widget on your page, too.

Vox's bigger sibling is TypePad.

TypePad has the powerful design tools that professional bloggers crave, offering easy drag-and-drop design and an array of customisation tools. It won't place adverts on your blog, but you can supply your own via a third-party ad network. Fees vary from $5 to $30 (£2.50 to £15) a month.

Typepad

LiveJournal is designed as a community tool rather than a standard blogging service. For instance, you can join user-created groups and text-message other members.

LiveJournal provides 1GB of photo storage.

LiveJournal

NEXT PAGE: more blogging tools > >

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.

MORE BLOGGING TOOLS

A good choice for first-time bloggers is Google's Blogger.

Setup couldn't be simpler: choose one of a dozen design templates, enter your blog title and text in the browser-based editor, then add an image, video clip or link with just a couple of clicks. The service lacks TypePad's sophisticated features and we'd like to see more editing tools – but what Blogger does, it does very well.

Blogger

If you've already got a Yahoo Mail account, Yahoo 360 is the fastest way to blog – no additional setup is needed. There's no facility within Yahoo 360's editor to post audio and video clips, but you can add reader polls.

Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces is fine if you don't need high-end features. Its editor lets you add photos and embed videos, but you can't upload video directly from a PC.

The WordPress service provides handy editing tools, including a word counter and the option to open links in a separate window. For $15 (£7.50) a year, use the site's Stylesheet Editor to modify your template.

Wordpress

NEXT PAGE: music sharing sites > >

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.

MAKE IT IN THE MUSIC BIZ

You don't necessarily need a major label to make it big in the music biz. These sites will help you promote and sell your tunes.

The painfully ugly page designs on MySpace haven't stopped the site from becoming the top promotional resource for unsigned musicians.

Signup is free and MySpace's music-related content runs deep, including dedicated classifieds and forums. One drawback: you can upload only four songs. Competing sites let you post more.

MySpace

You may know GarageBand as the Mac software for creating music, but a website by that name also exists.

Musicians get 200MB of free storage for their songs. To have your tunes rated, you must first review 30 songs from other members or pay $20 (£10). If you're not a starving artist, a Gold membership (£50) buys more perks.

GarageBand

Jamendo lets you post and share as much of your music as you want, but you must post at least an album's worth.

You can distribute your tracks free of charge – allowing others to remix or alter your creations if you choose – while retaining the right to sign an exclusive deal with a label.

Jamendo

NEXT PAGE: more music-sharing sites > >

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.

GET YOUR MUSIC HEARD

You don't necessarily need a major label to make it big in the music biz. These sites will help you promote and sell your tunes.

Magnatune splits purchases 50:50 with its artists and allows them to set a purchase price (within reason). You're responsible for recording your own tunes and paying for any studio time, if necessary.

Magnatune

MusicSubmit helps you promote your music by sending your MP3s and artist/band information to hundreds of internet radio stations, music magazines, blogs and other sites.

Signup is free, but promotional services range from $17.50 (£9) a month to a one-time fee of $239 (£120). If you'd rather sell your own CDs, you can let people play the music on your own site by embedding the MusicSubmit player there for free.

Sony's slick AcidPlanet site allows artists to review other people's songs, and maybe get discovered by making the site's Top 25 list of the most popular tunes. Among the useful freebies is the AcidExpress music-creation software. The more you review other artists' songs, the more likely it is that others will check yours out.

Acid Planet

Musicians receive some great freebies at MP3.com, including 100MB of storage for music, 10MB for photos and unlimited space for video clips. The site has an egalitarian feel, with lesser-known acts enjoying equal billing alongside major-label stars.

NEXT PAGE: get your book published > >

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.

GET YOUR BOOK READ

BookSurge, Amazon's self-publishing arm, offers various fee-based services, each tailored for a specific breed of writer. Publishing fees for fiction books go from $500 (£250) up to $3,600 (£1,800). The priciest package includes a review of your manuscript by a professional editor.

Royalty rates range from 25 percent of the list price for trade paperbacks purchased via retail channels to a mere 10 percent for those sold via wholesale. Amazon and other online retailers will offer your title, while BookSurge provides tips on how to boost your Amazon sales opportunities.

BookSurge

If you'd prefer not to pay up front, Lulu will print your book.

If you're serious about marketing your work, however, you'll have to pay.

Obtaining an ISBN code, for instance, costs $50 (£25). Lulu lets you set the book's price; it prints and ships each item, and its author-royalty rate is a generous 80 percent.

Lulu sells its authors' books at its site, too.

Lulu

NEXT PAGE: more opportunities to sell your book > >

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.

MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO SELL YOUR WRITING

iUniverse offers a Premier Pro package (£550 to £600) that includes guidance on polishing your manuscript, plus marketing assistance and a custom hard cover.

There's even the chance that your book will appear in Barnes & Noble bookshops for eight weeks – or longer, if it's selling.

The bargain Fast Track service (£200) publishes your work without editorial guidance, cover graphics or illustrations.

iUniverse

You might need a marketing degree to fathom the promotion and publishing choices at Xlibris, although the site's detailed FAQ section clearly explains the fine print.

The service's $300 (£150) Advantage package includes printing a paperback version of your masterwork, while the $13,000 (£6,500) Platinum deal adds marketing help, including an advertisement in the New York Review of Books' Independent Press Listing.

Xlibris

CafePress.com makes one-offs of all kinds of stuff. Choose the size and binding, then upload your manuscript. You set the price, which determines your royalty payment. CafePress.com gets $10 (£5) for each book you sell, while its online shop will even sell your book for you.

NEXT PAGE: business sites > >

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.

WEB 2.0 BUSINESS AIDS

You have a business to run and you don't have the time or skills to build a website from scratch. Let these services do the heavy lifting for you, allowing you to focus on more important management matters.

The Homestead hosting service has a great toolkit for building a professional site, even if you can't tell your HTML from your BYOB.

The Design Gallery has more than 2,000 templates, so it's unlikely that your site will end up as a clone of your competitors'. Homestead's drag-and-drop tools let you easily add your company's logo and other brands. Its least expensive hosting service for businesses costs $20 (£10) a month, plus a $25 (£12.50) setup fee.

For more affordable hosting, try Yahoo Small Business. Prices start at $9 (£4.50) a month and, when we signed up, the startup fee was waived. The page-design tools are serviceable, although they can't match Homestead's. Constructing an e-commerce site is easy and you get plenty of tips for success.

Google Custom Search is a free, Google-hosted search window that you place on your business's site. You choose the pages that
are searched when your visitors enter a query.

For professional sites, the fee-based Business Edition is worth the cost (rates start at $100 a year). Business Edition removes the Google logo from the search window and Google adverts from the search results, while adding more tools and support.

The Microsoft Small Business Center supplies free technical support for the company's popular business-oriented apps, including Windows XP Professional, Live Meeting and Small Business Accounting. The Startup Center provides advice for entrepreneurs as well as an eclectic mix of business essays, such as the always-popular 'Five rules for on-the-job romance'.

Visit Business Advisor for the latest business IT news, reviews, tips and tricks .