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A new breed of applications do more than just provide services—they nurture a complete social experience that combines the best of the real and digital worlds. Here, a guide to the emerging tools transforming the way you live.

You're Using: Google
You Will Be Using: Blekko
Why It's Better: Blekko searches only trusted sites preselected by editors and supplements requests with something it calls slashtags—categories like recipes, gossip, and sports—to further refine results.
Coolest Feature: Allows you to create your own slashtags and share them with the community.
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You're Using: Expedia
You Will Be Using: Hipmunk
Why It's Better: A simple landing page emphasizes the basics, while results appear, color-coded by airline, in an intuitive grid that looks like a day planner. Plus, tabbed browsing lets you conduct multiple searches in the same window.
Coolest Feature: You can search by "Agony" factor, which combines a flight's price, duration, and number of stops.
• • •
You're Using: Skype
You Will Be Using: Tinychat
Why It's Better: An incredibly simple Web-based setup allows you to organize and invite chat participants within a single browser window—no downloads required.
Coolest Feature: Features celebrity chats with the likes of Bruno Mars, Eliza Dushku, and John Legend.
• • •
You're Using: AOL Chatrooms
You Will Be Using: LikeALittle
Why It's Better: You can send SMS-like messages to people nearby who share your interests, background, and friends—e.g., you're both Bears fans or UCLA alums.
Coolest Feature: Location sharing, which alerts you when another LALer is close by and lets you chat them up.
• • •
You're Using: OpenTable
You Will Be Using: Grubwithus
Why It's Better: Instead of reserving your own table, opt for a social dining experience by buying a ticket (usually around $30) for a family-style prix fixe meal with friends or strangers.
Coolest Feature: Pick an interest—wine, basketball, rock music—to be alerted when there's a table for like-minded diners.
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You're Using: Tumblr
You Will Be Using: Posterous
Why It's Better: Uses e-mail to make mobile blogging effortless: The subject line is your title, and the e-mail body is your post. You can even add tags by using parentheses.
Coolest Feature: Includes an array of tools for exporting posts to social sites like Twitter and Flickr.
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You're Using: BlackBerry Messenger
You Will Be Using: GroupMe
Why It's Better: Offers collective messaging (a feature formerly available only to BlackBerry users), which lets you conference with a group via text or phone call—all free of charge.
Coolest Feature: TV shows are using GroupMe texts to offer exclusive behind-the-scenes content.
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You're Using: iTunes Genius Service
You Will Be Using: Chomp
Why It's Better: This free app is the most comprehensive resource for recommendations and downloads of all the other apps out there—including Android and Apple—and features a fluid, easy-to-navigate interface.
Coolest Feature: To dislike an app, you click on a broken-heart icon.
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You're Using: Flickr
You Will Be Using: Path
Why It's Better: This photo-sharing network goes against today's share-everything-with-everyone ethos by limiting you to 50 friends and offering a more private environment that filters out external noise.
Coolest Feature: Commenting is also limited to a selection of emoticons, making feedback visual and direct.
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You're Using: Amazon
You Will Be Using: Chegg
Why It's Better: Buy and sell expensive university textbooks—or even rent them for the length of your term at around half the retail price.
Coolest Feature: The CourseRank feature displays fellow students' reviews of the classes the books are assigned for.
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You're Using: eBay
You Will Be Using: Zaarly
Why It's Better: Instead of searching, write a brief description of what you want—a laptop, a suit—to be connected with a seller who can fulfill your need.
Coolest Feature: A leaderboard that tracks the members with the highest number of transactions, arcade-style.
• • •
You're Using: StubHub
You Will Be Using: SeatGeek
Why It's Better: Aggregates available tickets across a range of sites (including StubHub and eBay) and uses a predictive algorithm to tell you when to buy before prices rise.
Coolest Feature: A referral system earns you $10 for every friend who joins and buys a ticket.

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