2011 has been quite a year for web apps with HTML5 and CSS3 really beginning to catch on, giving web apps more power and capabilities than they’ve ever had before and bringing them closer to their desktop rivals—or completely redefining the way we do certain things (social media?). With 2011 right around the corner, the AppStorm team thought it would be a great time to take a look back on 2011 and some of the best applications developers have brought us. So we bring you 20 of the best web apps from 2011.In preparing this post, I was taken back by the incredible number of fantastic web apps I’ve seen this year, so it’s very possible you’ll find something new and amazing yourself. Go on and take a look!
Although Dropbox’s primary function isn’t its web app, it’s still one of our favorite apps with so many uses it’ll blow your hair back. The desktop application is, without question, the world’s best multi-platform, multi-system data sync software.
The number of tips, tricks and hacks for Dropbox make it one of the most versatile apps I’ve likely ever come across. The combination of the powerful desktop and web apps ensure you always have access to your data, regardless of where you are.
Be sure to take a look at our Ultimate Dropbox Toolkit & Guide for a massive (and growing) list of ways to use this amazing app.
You’re probably wondering why I’m even including Facebook on this list considering it’s user-base is so massive it could be its own country, and one of the largest at that. But, let’s face it, Facebook has changed the way we interact socially and it’s been in the news more than any other app—especially for its privacy concerns—and has also changed dramatically over the last year.
Facebook is “THE” social network. There’s just no better way to stay in touch with your friends, family co-workers, favorite brands, bands or media. Web.AppStorm has also covered Facebook incredibly frequently; see a few of the following posts.
- 25 Tips for Killer Facebook Marketing
- 35 of the Best Facebook Fan Pages
- 15 Simple Ways to Integrate Facebook into Your Website
- 7 Fun Facebook Video Conferencing and Chat Apps
- Creating Facebook Groups & Downloading Personal Data
- Great Apps to Customize Your Facebook Fan Page
- Top 10 Facebook Apps
- Facebook’s New Messages
Google is a killer app producing beast, no doubt—possibly the king of web apps. Not only do they run the worlds most popular search engine but they also offer apps that are arguably the most popular in their own categories; Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Docs, Picasa and Google Chrome.
You’re all likely familiar with at least a few of Google’s amazing apps and the reach they have in the web world, so I need not further explain!
Check out our guide on setting up your personalized Google Apps suite.
As great as SmugMug is, it’s still hard to choose between it and Flickr considering they’re both top of their class but work better for different people’s needs. Over 2011, however, I’d have to go with SmugMug considering the number of improvements and new features they’ve implemented.
SmugMug is one of the best apps you could choose for storing and sharing images, not to mention the abilities it gives users for customizing galleries and printing & framing options. SmugMug also has options leading their field in video, allowing 1080p quality at up to 10 minutes.
While there are several fantastic Twitter web apps, TweetDeck stands out of the crowd and isn’t just popular on the web but also one of the top choices for desktop users as well. TweetDeck offers a version of their app for essentially every major device and platform, from desktop to mobile and as of just recently, the Chrome Web Store.
TweetDeck isn’t just a Twitter powerhouse, it’s a social media connection hub for pretty much everything.
Runner up: HootSuite
From image editing to music creation, Aviary is a powerhouse of killer web apps. While their primary apps are Flash-based, they’ve recently launched a lightweight HTML5 image editor that can even be embedded in your own apps. Aviary isn’t the only ones providing a fantastic online image editor, but they certainly have one of the best (if not the best) collections of great apps for tackling lots of different media types.
Runner up: Splashup.com
OnLive is attempting to revolutionize the way games are made available and against all odds, they’re doing a pretty dang amazing job of it. They’re pushing their new game system pretty heavily but you can just as easily play via browser capable computer and most recently view live players with an iPad.
The OnLive team is taking their technology even further, however, with rumors and demos of video streaming and remote system access (e.g. Windows 7 through a browser). While OnLive’s game list is still pretty limited, it’s growing and the service is taking fantastic steps forward all the time, recently even offering unlimited gaming for $10 per month!
If you want a deeper look at OnLive, be sure to read our early review (with video preview), OnLive: Next Generation Gaming.
Hulu was quite the hit as soon as it was released and it’s been in the news quite a bit through this last year for the struggles they’ve had obtaining and offering more content. One thing’s for sure though, Hulu is arguably the best place to catch up on your favorite TV shows.
With the addition of Hulu Plus, you can get all your favorite Hulu content shortly after airing, usually in HD and on a solid number of devices including the iPhone and iPad. At $7.99 per month, it’s not a bad deal. Unfortunately it’s not available outside the states just yet.
Runner up: Netflix
Groupon is a relatively new app but has really begun catching on this last year, introducing many to the new concept of social shopping. It’s popularity and success has really taken off this year and it doesn’t look like it’ll be slowing down any time soon.
The concept behind Groupon is pretty simple; you subscribe to daily deals (just notifications) and purchase deals you like along with your friends and family (though you can purchase them alone). In some of the deals, groups are required and it can be much more fun snagging a deal on an event with your friends.
While Pandora is still one of the most popular music streaming web apps, it’s still only radio via the web and hasn’t changed all that much this year. Grooveshark, however, is a music library with access to music and “radio stations”, all for free (with an optional VIP paid subscription).
Throughout the year, Grooveshark has made lots of improvements to their web app along with offering mobile apps for all the major mobile platforms (including Blackberry and Palm). Grooveshark works amazingly well, has a great selection of music and the price is hard to beat!
Evernote is similar to Dropbox in that it’s a powerful data sync tool compatible with nearly every platform; desktop, mobile and web. It’s not exclusively a web app and requires a downloaded app whether on windows or a mobile device to really make use of it but all your data is accessible via the web as well.
Evernote differs from Dropbox in the type of data typically stored, based on a note and notebook concept and built to help organize your notes and data (including images, files, etc).
If you want to learn more about Evernote and how to take advantage of its awesome capabilities, check out the following posts.
Kickstarter is easily one of my favorite apps of 2011, making things possible for people in a very elegant and social way not previously possible. Users can start projects, requesting backers to reach the projects financial goal. If the goal is reached, the project is funded (by the backers). Other users can back any project they’d like (I’ve already backed two, both reaching their goals) and if the project reaches its required financial goal from their backers, you’ll then be required to pay the money you backed the project for.
It’s a fantastic idea and makes it much easier for every day people to back projects and achieve their goals. They’ve already had tons of fantastically successful projects! See Rocking Kickstarter for Easy Project Funding for a more in-depth look.
SlideRocket is a presentation web app that really shows what kind of incredibly powerful apps can be developed for the web. In my opinion, even current desktop powerpoint apps fail to offer the capabilities SlideRocket does. It’s even available on mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad.
SlideRocket is free but many of the more powerful features are reserved for the Pro plan, which will be well worth it for business or heavy presentation users. See our review of SlideRocket, Power Your Presentations with the New SlideRocket, more a more in-depth look but keep in mind they’ve added many fantastic features since then.
It’s difficult to say Freshbooks has been the best invoicing app for freelancers as there are definitely others that are more appealing to those with different levels of needs. Freshbooks does, however, offer one of the widest range of capabilities and features and is certainly one of the most widely used.
Invoice, track time, organize expenses, manage clients and integrate with many other amazing web apps for your business needs with Freshbooks.
Other invoicing apps I would highly recommend are Blinksale, CurdBee, Ronin and Invoice Machine. I’d encourage you to also take a look at our review of Blinksale—Blinksale:
A Revamped Butt Kicking Invoice App.
When it comes to private journaling, Penzu has rocked 2011. They’ve added plenty of new features and more recently released a full HTML5 app for mobiles that rivals some native apps. The app is a pleasure to use, not to mention how therapeutic private journaling is, and offers plenty of features for you to customize your journal and connect with services like Flickr for adding your photos.
Be sure to check out our reviews of Penzu’s apps for a more in-depth look.
Threadsy takes a different approach to email and social media, bringing the two into a single app but in a way that makes it easier for you to organize and stay on top of everything. So many of us have multiple email and social networking accounts—Threadsy enables you to pull them all into one place to easily manage it all.
Although it’s still in beta, it’s come a long way this year and boasts some really killer features, proving just how powerful web apps can be.
Forrst is a fun and creative app for designers and developers to share links, snapshots of their work, code and ask questions. Although some might argue Dribbble should be here instead, Forrst brought the Dribbble concept to a new level and with more creativity.
Both are invite-only apps, meaning you must be invited by current members who are encouraged to only invite those who will compliment the community. For creatives and coders, it’s a valuable resource and a great social community.
Font creation and sharing used to be a much more exclusive club, not to mention much more difficult. FontStruct changed that and opened up the world of fonts to every day users with an app that anyone can start using without extensive training. It’s also free!
There’s a lot more to the app, community and website though—definitely worth checking out if you’d like to design fonts or are interested in the subject. Take a look at Creating Fonts with FontStruct for a more in-depth look at the app.
Online forms and their associated data can be a massive pain to build and manage, especially for those who aren’t web developers. FormStack takes the pain out of this whole web forms nightmare, making it incredibly easy to build and manage forms and the data you’ll receive from them. It really doesn’t get easier than this!
In 2011 Formstack has made lots of great improvements and added incredibly useful app integrations to easily enable things like payments. They even offer a free plan should you not need more than a few simple forms, but pricing plans are very reasonable should you need more.
We all know how important password security is and how difficult it is to manage and remember more than a few complex passwords. LastPass takes care of it all for you on Mac, Windows and Linux with integration in every major browser and even mobile access on iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows phone, Symbian and Android. That’s impressive app support but your passwords are that important and the LastPass team knows it!
LastPass has been around for awhile but they deserve a spot on this list as they’ve acquired Xmarks, the best browser bookmarks sync app around, saving it from shutting down. Hopefully the two will be combined but either way, LastPass is a stellar group for keeping Xmarks alive.
What’s Coming in 2012?
Looking back on 2011 we’ll see that web apps have really started coming of age and are further blurring the line between desktop and cloud computing. This is really just the tip of the iceberg though, with new web technologies like HTML5 and more powerful browsers making their way into people’s day to day lives. So, what do we have to look forward to in 2011?
For starters, the just launched Chrome Web Store and Chrome OS will further develop and hopefully flourish. These two products are a unique perspective on the world of web apps and one that many feel is overdue. Google may just be able to start the full-on cloud computing revolution and we might see it blossom next year.
As more people shift to entertainment sources on the web, we’ll very likely continue seeing the growth of apps like Hulu and Netflix, possibly even getting a truly usable system to access our content in the living room—potentially allowing more people to “cut the cable” and ditch their cable TV providers.
One development I’d absolutely love to see next year is for OnLive and their collection of games and media offerings. OnLive’s technology has capabilities that could change the way we compute and consume media. They’re off to a great start already and moving ahead quickly so I have high hopes for them in 2011.
With all the incredible developments and advancements coming out at break-neck speed, it’s hard to keep up on it all—and not just in web apps.
The Best iOS and Mac Apps of 2011
If you’re a fan of the your trusty Mac, iPhone, or iPad (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), you may also like to take a look at the companion posts published across the AppStorm network. These include some seriously amazing software, and it’s a good way to quickly see what you might have missed over the course of the year.
Take a look at:
Thank you so much for reading AppStorm in 2011. We’re really excited about everything that 2011 has in store, and I hope you’ll take a minute to subscribe to the site if you haven’t already! The AppStorm team of sites will be working hard to bring you the latest in reviews, roundups, how-tos and more.
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