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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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