Around the Web in 2008

Before the year's out, don't miss these Web sites hatched in 2008. They'll save you time, money and embarrassment, whether you're at work, at home or on the road.

Webgiftr

Selecting the perfect gift is a daunting task requiring empathy, research, and a superhuman facility with "dates."

Surmount all your gifting hurdles with Webgiftr.

WG's an all-purpose gift resource designed by a man who turned to the Internet for help alleviating his gifting woes only to find it barren of truly robust help ... or maybe he just got distracted by mini-donkey Web sites, or whatever.

Once you've uploaded contacts from your Yahoo/Gmail/Hotmail account, relevant data (birthdays, anniversaries) will be auto-logged into a calendar that you can also manually update with gift-mandating occasions, allowing you to plan expensive post-infidelity groveling months in advance.

For its Gift Ideas section, WG combines the Web's hottest items with user ratings, then breaks down products by categories, including price range, theme (Books, DVDs, iPod/iPhone, etc.), and recipient type; to get even more personal, invite friends and family to set up their own accounts and share wish lists, including desired products, favorite brands, restaurants they'd like a reservation at, or even charities they'd prefer be supported in lieu of material goods, in case you hang out with Jesus, or, like, Josh Hartnett.

WG's also simultaneously launched a fully featured Facebook application, sporting a highly similar interface and the ability to auto-input Friends' birthdays -- a bonus tempered by the daunting task of weaseling out of 498 birthday gifts a year.

It's not too late to save yourself from total holiday failure, so get your act together at Webgiftr.com.

Hitchsters

Getting to the airport generally gets your journey off to a bad start -- cabs drain your wallet, while rides from friends create a debt that, when called in, will leave you apoplectic with rage.

For a more appealing option, try Hitchsters.

Started in New York and now serving San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, Calif., Hitchsters is a free Web service that pairs you up with another airport-bound human, then dispatches a car to swoop you both up. You'll have already paid, with Hitchsters automatically splitting the fare and tip evenly, even if you ordered the lobster.

Simply enter your pertinent details (address/phone/when and where you're going), and 48 hours before your flight, Hitchsters confirms your match based on proximity, flight time, and whether or not you've specified your companion's gender.

Upon your return, Hitchsters will go so far as to pair you with a suitable companion from your flight, so even if it's delayed you're guaranteed the company of someone at least as furious as you.

After all's said and done, you're asked to evaluate the car service and your companion with a thumbs up or thumbs down -- a reasonable request, assuming you're not stuck driving some friend to the airport.

Start hitching at Hitchsters.com.

GreedyPeople

During childhood, there's a market for all manner of thrilling dares, from eating worms, to kissing girls … after eating worms -- but unfortunately, that market died with recess. Or did it? Take a look at GreedyPeople.

From a media-buying pro who's now buying dignity, GP describes itself as "Elance, Facebook, Craigslist, The Moment of Truth and Comedy Central combined into a consumer-based Web environment," overcomplicating the simple premise of "limitless ways to shame yourself for cash."

Create an account, then propose demeaning tasks to other Greedsters, or accept one that's already been posted; agree on a price and funds are dropped into PayPal escrow, to be released upon proof of performance, be it photo, video, audio or door kicked in by ultimate beneficiary of contract.

Current proposals run from gastronomy ("Send me 20 In & Out burgers" -- $100), to business ("Fly to New York, Cuss My Old Boss Out" -- $500 plus expenses).

You can also post offers that you'd like to receive, but each post will run you one Greedy Credit ($1). If you don't have the money, you'd better start digging.

Sign up and degrade yourself for cash at GreedyPeople.com.

Username Check

Type in your username, and UC will check almost 70 different sites to see where it's already taken, from big guns like Gmail, Pandora, and Flickr, to more obscure sites.

Reclaim your name from the lost reaches of the Web with UsernameCheck.com.

About Airport Parking

Hunting for great travel deals requires patience and tight refresh-button skills -- but enjoying that $99 Cabo flight is hard when your Mercury Merkur's draining $99 a day in long-term parking.

Complete your cheapness, with About Airport Parking.

Park's a comprehensive airport parking lot search engine, designed by a Silicon Valley vet who desperately wanted to improve airline travel via Web 2.0, but struggled to develop a Gmap of morbidly obese aisle mates.

Just plug in your airport and your departure and return dates, and Park will spit back G-mapped options sortable by rate, distance and user rating; refine your search with options like valet, self-park, covered garage, even oil change and car wash service.

Delve deeper into prospective lots through user-posted comments, generally valuable feedback that'll allow you to decide whether the "free coffee" is worth the "employee [who] took the keys and stole the GPS."

Park lists every garage it finds, but has developed relationships with certain lots to let you lock in special discount rates by reserving a spot -- so, when your travel thrift lands you in a hotel dump in Cabo, you'll be content knowing your car's having a better vacation than you are.

Stash your whip on the cheap at aboutairportparking.com.

OutALot

Evolution has provided animals with advanced methods of terrain mapping: dolphins orient themselves by echo location, and lemmings orient themselves by cliffs. Mapping out the waypoints of man's existence is OutAlot.com.

Designed by two Brooklyn code monkeys, OutAlot is a Web/mobile-accessible resource that Gmaps the nearest occurrences of the things most important to your daily survival: bars, restaurants and movies.

Casual browsers can input a street address and select a category to see a comprehensive array of instances within a five-block radius, each clickable for detailed info, ratings, and comments -- like those from Village Yakocho's enigmatic prophet, "some will find it slimy, others sublime."

Create a profile, and you can make lists of favorite locations, and leave your own feedback.

Soon, OutAlot will let you share favorites lists on your own dedicated page, creating a highly evolved method of terrain mapping for your friends: lazy codependence on others.

Go out. A lot. At OutALot.com.

Workstir

Craigslist is a convenient way to get work you want done, done, but it also opens you up to shrewd scam artists, and sensitive drywall installers searching for a meaningful friendship. Reduce your risk with Workstir, now in beta.

San Francisco's own Workstir plays matchmaker between workers and the people pathetically dependent on them, vetting the former with a Facebook/LinkedIn and verbal background check to prevent users from wasting time.

Start by posting a Craig-style job title/description, and an alert will go out to any applicably tagged Workstirs; if nobody quite fits the bill, the site administrators will place calls to Workstirs on your behalf to see who's up to the daunting task of "fixing my leaky faucet (must be female)."

After posting, you can wait out the best offer; once the job's done, you'll rate/review your Workstir, so, eventually, the best will rise to the top of the heap.

While down the line, Workstir plans to charge service providers a nominal fee, for now, it's free for all users -- a convenient way to launch a Web site you want launched.

Check it out at Workstir.com.

Yotify

Google Alerts are designed to eliminate arduous net surfing, but given Google's omniscience, they usually result in hours of arduous Google Alert surfing. Drill down to what you really want with Yotify.

Currently in beta, Yotify takes the Google Alerts concept to the next level by allowing you to create targeted "scouts" that will send you hourly/daily e-mail updates from specific sites -- mindless tech servants who won't judge you for looking for a great deal on ultra-tiny condoms.

For example, set up a scout for jobs/apartments/sale items on Craigslist, narrow with parameters like min/max price and descriptive key words ("Account Exec," "Doorman," "Free"), and you'll get e-mails with all applicable posts.

Yot can also alert you to price thresholds on eBay and eBay Tickets, Hotels.com, and Shopping.com, which searches thousands of Web sites.

Of course, you can still direct scouts toward standard news sites like Reuters, USAToday and ESPN, and blogs like Deadspin and I Can Has Cheezburger, because if there's anything that's arduous, it's endlessly sifting through pictures of cats wearing cheese.

Get your Web searching done at Yotify.com

EveryBlock

While a superficial relationship with your neighborhood will do for a time, to achieve real intimacy, you need to access its deepest darkest secrets, and which restaurants have applied for outdoor seating. Get all the dirt at EveryBlock.com.

EveryBlock culls 'hood-specific data from wide-ranging, otherwise tedious sources like government offices and Web sites, local newspapers, community weeklies, blogs, TV and radio, then amalgamates it for you into a neat little distracting package.

Just type in zip code or hood name and search categories, such as real estate listings, condo conversion approvals, crime reports (two pairs of D&G sunglasses stolen in Coral Gables! From a Nissan!), restaurant and liquor license applications, and restaurant code inspections.

EB also pulls data from sites like Craigslist and Yelp for business reviews on shops both new and old, and comes with a mapping system for a bird's-eye view, so you won't get lost on your headlong dash to get some paella.

For even greater knowledge, EB features Flickr pics taken in particular areas.

EveryBlock serves 11 major cities, including Chicago, Boston, Miami, San Francisco and New York.

Seek real intimacy at EveryBlock.com.

Avego

Taking a cab is inherently frustrating, what with the nagging suspicion you'd get there faster yourself, and the fear that your driver's curious musk might forever turn you off eating cheesesteaks. Quelling the former is Avego.

Conceived in Ireland and launched from its new San Francisco office, Avego's a Web/SMS/GPS-powered iPhone application that turns your car into a taxi and your cell phone into its meter, setting you up to make 30 cents a mile (and $1 for the first) off those too cheap for cabs.

Launch the application out on the road, and Avego will recommend potential passengers along your route for you to accept or reject; pick up a fare, and the passenger will tell you a pin number, which both starts the Paypal transaction and pops up the passenger's picture on your phone -- if it doesn't match, you're being duped.

As the passenger's destination approaches, your iPhone will tell you where to pull over (without altering your route); you'll receive a statement of your earnings (Avego takes a small cut) and be prompted to rate your rider from 1 to 5.

To catch a ride, you don't need an iPhone -- just text or call in your destination and Avego will ping you back when a willing driver is getting close. You can also specify driver criteria, i.e., over 18, male/female, or staunch vegetarian.

Get the app right now at Avego.com.

EverNote

A good personal assistant can make every element of your life easier. But why pay someone? Get organizational help on the free with EverNote.

EverNote creates a centralized, comprehensive information repository you can easily search when the time strikes.

Your account lets you highlight/clip Web pages or type in memos, but to truly take advantage, send EverNote your photos: when you search, the site's mind-boggling proprietary image-recognition technology will decipher your penmanship, and crunch everything from T-shirt text, to street signs, to skywriting advertising.

Applications include phone-photoing business cards to create an online Rolodex, cataloging shots of all the wines/menu items you've enjoyed, and snapping named-tagged people at conferences to pretend you remember them when you're searching for people to buy you wines/menu items.

You can always use EverNote online, but the downloadable version offers additional features, like off-line access and the ability to drag and drop images and audio right into the application.

Sign up for free today and get your act together at Evernote.com

Ding It's Up

Plug in the desired Web address, and this absurdly simple site will e-mail, text, or Twitter you as soon as the URL goes up, useful for monitoring temporarily crashed sites.

Waste less time checking crashed time wasters at DingItsUp.com.