The eternal question answered…

Came upon something interesting today…

Should I use tables for layout?

DNSRank: New kid in the same old block

DNSRank is an all new juvenile entrant in a jungle full of raging tigers. What I mean to say is that, they’ve decided to join the whole SEO bandwagon with almost no originality on their part – which might make it very difficult for them to survive for long.

The site definitely has that Web 2.0 jazz & sparkle to it and is very well laid out. They describe themselves as a “Domain Evaluation Tool” – but I’m sorry to say that they fall way short of expectations in this quarter. Eye-candy isn’t all !! Lets face the reality. There are plenty of age old predators in this field, starting from web-based services like SEOMoz & Xinu to awesome Firefox extensions like SeoQuake, SEOpen & SearchStatus. Most of these tools give far more comprehensive information and Search Engine Optimization tips than the barebone skeletal outline offered by DNSRank. While utilising their service, I couldn’t find a single tool that could spike my interest… except maybe for the section that displays sites which share the same IP as yours. Then again, there are plenty of other services on the net that cater to just this, as a simple Google Search reveals.

DNSRank is still in it’s infancy. Running their own tool on their own domain reveals that even the domain registration is just 29 days old (on the date of writing this review). Judging by it’s age, we can certainly cut some lax. If they have market domination (or at least gaining a large percentage) in mind, they’ve already lost out of the beginning battle. They totally failed to cash in on the element of surprise (by introducing new tools & tricks) – which is so common to any Web 2.0 startup these days. If they’re really out to set a mark on the wall, they need to strive much much harder than this.

Show-off your Google, Yahoo, Technorati & Alexa ranks on your site with Rank Widget

Rank Widget Google PR 4There are plenty of services on the net which offer shiny ranking badges for your site. Rank Widget brings the more popular ones among these (Google PageRank, Alexa Traffic Rank, Technorati Blog Rank & Yahoo Search InLinks) under one roof and presents them in a plethora of colours and designs that’ll suit every conceivable taste.

Rank Widget Alexa Traffic RankThe service is free and really simple to use. Just visit Rank Widget, enter your own site’s URL and select the type of ranking badge (among the above mentioned four) you want. Once you’ve hit the Get Rank button, the selected ranking appears on a multitude of badges (both static and animated) along with the code needed to embed each in your site.

If you’re one who likes to proudly show off your site’s ranking, this service is a must try for you.

Xinu: Your one-stop SEO shop

Xinu LogoWell, almost ! Xinu is this great new “Jack-of-all-trades” tool that analyses and returns a horde of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) related information regarding your site, neatly stacked in a single page. A real time-saver if you ask me.

All you go to do is enter your site’s URL and hit Go. The results are fetched using AJAX – so you don’t have to suffer long wait periods while all the factors are summed up and displayed. In fact, the interface comes up with pre-created tables and SEO factor titles, where the values are simply plugged-in later on.

Among the results provided are:

  • Screen-shot of your site
  • A mini site diagnosis involving your URL’s difficulty-to-remember score, site title score (based on the number of words), keywords & description, HTML file size, number of each types of tags etc. Surprisingly, this section reported that my site doesn’t have a favicon and I need to get one, whereas you can see mine (the blue flask) the moment you land-up at my site.
  • A small domain panel that shows the IP your domain resolves to, the country where your host is located, the site author’s name and if possible the age of the domain.
  • A site ranking panel that displays you Google PageRank, Technorati rank, Alexa Traffic rank as well as the number of DMOZ listings.
  • Couple of lines of information on the type of syndication (feeds) offered by your site and the number of subscribers.
  • Number of inbound links from various well-known Social Bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, Digg, Clipmarks as well as from lesser-known ones like Mister Wong, Meneame etc.
  • Site markup validity information broken up into HTML, CSS and Feeds.
  • Number of indexed pages on Google, Yahoo and Live.
  • Lastly, the number of backlinks from all major search engines like Google, Yahoo, AllTheWeb, AskJeeves etc.

Xinu Interface Screenshot

All in all a pretty good tool – although a bit buggy in places. Hopefully, they’ll fix these soon. What I like best about Xinu is that you can stop scampering around half of the internet just to check on all the important SEO aspects of your site.

Stripemania: A free online striped background generator for your site

Stripemania LogoEver felt like giving your site’s theme a cool, striped look but didn’t know how to go about it? Are the graphics tutorials on stripes too complex for you to follow? Here’s you quick and dirty way out. Stripemania is a free online tool that generates striped background images for use with your site’s theme in just a couple of quick, easy steps.

The interface is pretty simple. To get your desired stripe, you choose the width of the stripes, the distance between each stripe, orientation and a couple of colours and hit refresh. Thats it! Your custom stripe is ready to download. If you don’t like vanilla stripes (alternating coloured stripes) – you can choose multiple gradients for the stripes and get some pretty snazzy effects. There’s a quick full-screen preview option that lets you test your background out even before you download it.

Stripemania Screenshot

Stripemania falls within the recent Web 2.0 genre of online graphics design tools and is one of the better designed tools in this category and pretty much devoid of the ubiquitous AJAX timeout errors. It’s a must-add in any aspiring web-designer’s toolbox.

Calculate your site’s SEO Score with Website Grader

Website Grader LogoIf you’re a webmaster and run your own site, Website Grader can count as a brand new yet invaluable addition to your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) toolbox. The site takes your own site’s URL as an input and provides a Percentile SEO Score (on a scale of 100) along with a comprehensive report that tells you the SEO pros and cons of your site.

Additionally, you can enter your keywords/keyphrases along with your competitors URLs to get a relative feedback on your site’s marketing effectiveness.

My blog, Chaos Laboratory, got a score of 96/100. That means my site has a marketing effectiveness that is higher than 96% of all other sites submitted to this service.

A website grade of 96 for chaos-laboratory.com means that of the thousands of websites that have previously been submitted to the tool, our algorithm has calculated that this site scores higher than 96% of them in terms of its marketing effectiveness. The algorithm uses a proprietary blend of over a dozen different variables, including search engine data, website structure, approximate traffic, site performance, and others.

By submission, they mean the first time a site’s URL is entered at Website Grader, following which the data is kept stored in their database and matched against all such similarly submitted sites. This also means that the SEO Score for this site isn’t constant – and may vary from time to time depending on the quality of other sites submitted sooner or later.

The only warning I received was regarding the high number of meta keywords I have in my site header.

We believe that though the search engines don’t weigh keywords as heavily as they used to, they’re still important to get right. By using a high number of keywords, it is possible that you are diluting the effect of your most important keywords. We would suggest keeping the keywords to 10 or less. Currently, this site has 21 keywords in the meta-data.

The site sports a simplistic Web 2.0 AJAX based interface and there’s a membership feature, which helps you keep track of your SEO Score as well as get detailed reports mailed to you.

Website Grader is a free service (as of now) and I don’t see any mentions of a paid high-end counterpart anywhere on the site. This can definitely act as a free but great alternative to the Sitescore and the SEOMoz Page Strength tools – which have retracted their free services (at least Sitescore did while SEOMoz has reserved the updated analysis feature for premium subscribers only).

Found via: Quick Online Tips, Our Website SEO Grade is 98/100

Top 31 free alternatives to YouTube (video hosting sites)

Here’s a short list of free video hosting sites that you can use to display your streaming video content – apart from YouTube, that is. Most of these provide code for individual videos to enable you to embed them in your site directly. I’ll try and include a couple of lines highlighting the main features & USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of each, wherever possible. The list is alphabetically arranged and not in the order of usefulness or popularity.

AtomUploads Logo A video uploading and sharing service by AtomFilms – which is a division of the MTV Networks. As a result you can find a lot of unique web-shows hosted at this site. Not much information is available about their hosting features. However, as a MTV service you can expect the standards to be quite high. Features channel based organisation and member groups / communities.

blip.tv Logoblip.tv promises to bring to you shows – the kind of stuff you might find on television but won’t. Highly rated by PC World and Business 2.0 magazines this site syndicates its content with the likes of AOL Video, Yahoo! Video, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, MSN Video, Google Video etc. thus effectively multiplying your reach by millions. If you’ve got what it takes to create a great show, it may even get broadcast on this TV channel that blip.tv owns. And if your show’s a hit, they allow you to pick your own advertisers and earn revenue. Flash, QuickTime, DivX, 3gp – more or less all major formats are supported.

BrightCove Logo Brightcove lets you build and launch your own internet TV station. You can have your channel up and running within minutes and retain full control over the program schedule. Videos uploaded by other users can be incorporated into your shows too. Your channel is syndicated with other major players on the net and you can earn revenue through advertising as well as video sales. Features a pretty eye-candy interface.

ClipShack LogoClipShack is a community for videophiles – a place for sharing your videos with the world. Its run by Reality Digital, Inc. – a company with years of experience in catering to the multimedia needs of the corporate sector. Pretty basic interface.

Crackle Logo Crackle (formerly known as Grouper) is a Sony Pictures Entertainment company. It acts as a streaming entertainment network dedicated to the discovery and development of pioneering video creators across a diverse range of genres. Crackle supports multi-platform syndication to Sony devices, IPTV and major social networking sites. Crackle is all about “launching tomorrow’s stars today” and can serve as a serious platform for aspiring directors. There are contests going on all the time to hand-pick the most innovative creators and launch them in collaboration with Sony Pictures and other leading media partners.

Dailymotion LogoDailymotion is another humongous hosting cum sharing service. They have the standard set of features wrapped with a strict set of rules that prohibits any kind of adult or explicit content. If there’s one thing that sets it apart from the crowd – it’s the JukeBox feature. Video-Blogging and direct uploads from webcam supported too.

Flick Life Logo FlickLife counts among the handful of revenue sharing hosts that there are. You get to broadcast your own videos to the world at no cost at all and yet get some moollah in return. Features buddy lists. FlickLife is a privately owned company based in Columbus, Ohio.

Flukiest Logo Flukiest is an interactive community for sharing and managing digital media by artists, photographers, designers, musicians, writers, directors, producers, and technologists – which in other words mean it’s a photo and video hosting service. There seems to be a tagging engine at large judging from the humongous tag-cloud you encounter on the front page. Other services include email, buddy list, forums, blog and a separate music video section.

FLURL Logo FLURL allows you to upload and share videos under a set of pre-existing categories. Their rating system consists of a meter that displays the FLURL or HURL rating of a video. Adult content can be found profusely (there’s a separate above 18 section). Adult Filtering options are available but turned off by default for any new visitors.

go fish LogoGo Fish is a largish hosting site which helps you promote your directorial skills. The primary objective of this site is to give you your 15 minutes of fame. Documentaries, comedies, spoofs, pranks, and even episodic dramas – all are welcome here. The interface is pretty dense (and dark) and will particularly appeal to the gamers. It’s pretty easy to use though. If you’re seeking a wide exposure for your work, this could be the host for you.

Jumpcut Beta LogoJumpcut strives to make the uploading & sharing of videos and photos a fun and easy thing. Apart from instant publishing and user communities – Jumpcut has this unique Remix feature using which you can create your own version of someone else’s video without destroying the original work. For this they’ve made available a very easy-to-use and feature rich online video editing tool. At the end of your creative spree, you can let the community decide whether you’ve managed to outperform the original director.

Kewego Logo This is a German service and the interface language is Deutsch. However, the registration process and controls are pretty similar to any of the common video hosts – so you shouldn’t find it too difficult to make your way around this one, even if you don’t know the language. Incidentally, there is a small link right at the bottom of the page that allows you to switch to the English version. Keep in mind though – majority of the audience is German.

LiveDigital BetaA community based video sharing service with specialised channels where you can upload related videos. Consequently jumping channels brings up a horde of thematic videos. Permitted uploads include photos, audio tracks and videos. Features nearly unlimited (?) uploads – which in other words mean that they probably have paid, high-storage plans as well. There’s an inbuilt social networking feature in this and hence they allow you to deck up your profile in your own way using an advanced template creator. Drag & drop functionality for quick setup of photo / video journals.

LiveVideo LogoChannels, Favorites, Subscriptions, Videos, Photos – nothing out of the place that can make this service really stand out. It’s got a good blend of general features including a Hit or Miss rating system. However, it’s probably one of the very few which offer direct recording from webcams (see Viddler and VideoEgg).

Myubo Logo Myubo comes in four linguistic flavours – Czech, Deutsch, English and Slovak. It sports a mechanism to upload, view and share live and pre-recorded video via mobile 2.5G and 3G networks such as GPRS, EDGE, CDMA or UMTS, web and fixed IP networks. Pretty much covers the whole consumer wireless spectrum. Among offered features are channel based organisation, Mobile TV and user communities.

Revver Logo Revver has a clever mechanism that helps it track and monetize the uploaded videos as they spread virally across the internet – so “no matter where your creativity travels, you benefit“. Your uploaded video is paired with a targeted advertisement and the revenue is split 50/50 with you. Those who share and spread the videos get to keep part of the spoils too. 20% of the ad revenue is handed to them. Of particular interest to the developers is the Revver API, which allows one to build a video-sharing site complete with user accounts, uploading, sharing tools and access to the full Revver library of videos. The bandwidth is covered by Revver and the ad revenue is split three ways – you, Revver and the content creator.

Selfcast TV LogoA basic hosting service with standard features and channel-based organisation. Allows adult content and has a SafeSearch filter in place. One upper it has compared to other services is that it allows for direct mobile based uploads through MMS (currently in UK & Europe only).

Soapbox LogoThis is one service that I probably don’t have much to talk about. It’s part of the reknowned MSN Suite of online applications. Offers all the standard bookmarking, commenting, tagging, rating and sharing features and has it’s own flash-based player.

Spike-ifilm LogoA service by iFILM that has an extensive library of movie clips, music videos, short films, video game trailers, action sports and its popular ‘viral videos’ collection. Since October 2005, it’s a part of the Viacom network – so one can definitely trust this one. Of course you can expect all the latest and hottest of the videos here and can upload your own too. Has clips of daily TV shows from around the world.

Stage6 LogoA video hosting service by DivX for people who love videos. DivX, if you remember, is the group which came up with a similarly named format of video encoding for online distribution. DivX videos can be of pretty high quality and are rendered through a custom player which is available as a plug-in for most famous browsers. According to the Stage6 team, “Anyone can become a publisher, anyone can build an audience and every video available on Stage6 is compatible with over 70 million consumer electronics devices from every major manufacturer, making it easy to play back Stage6 videos on your television or portable device.

Tuberoo Logo Tuberoo and its sister concern Shoutwire – both of which offer video hosting and sharing services. Tuberoo recently opened up the Beta Testing of its mobile video service which will send out one Tuberoo video to your mobile everyday. Adult & explicit content is allowed and there’s no SafeSearch filter in effect.

Userme LogoThe name comes from the German word ??ber – which means “above” or “over”. The word migrated into English as uber and has come to mean. “super something that nothing is better than“. On similar lines, ??berme claims to be the ubercoolest place to showcase you uberific moments through photos, videos & blogs, form like-minded discussion groups to debate on uberhot topics or just chat the day away with your uberbuddies through their instant messenger. In short a high-flung social media site that contrives to capture the uber-elite netizens. Uberwap – a personal mobile portal keeps you connected on the move. Last but not the least – thoroughly customisable profile / homepage. Pretty ubertastic if you ask me !

Visit uVouchAnother site that offers all the standard features – video sharing & organisation, social networking, discussion groups, playlists, customisable profiles etc. There’s rating system in place with which you can vouch for other’s content. Allow for direct importing of videos from other hosting sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, Grouper, Myspace etc. Has a couple of widgets & gadgets for your site / blog.

Viddler LogoA site with simplistic but likable Web 2.0 style interface that allows you to upload, enhance and share your digital videos. Similar to VideoEgg, they offer a mechanism through which you can directly record / upload your videos using your webcam without requiring the use of any third-party recording tool. Viddler employs a mechanism which searches for content inside the videos, thus making your uploads search results relevant. Has their own flash-based player.

VideoEgg LogoVideoEgg features one of the slickest interfaces I’ve come across and offers a bag of really useful online video manipulation tools (cropping, resizing, direct recording etc.). Allows sharing through email, direct HTML embedding and Permalinks. The videos are displayed through their own interactive embeddable flash-based player. High-end sites with > 1 million visitors per month can sign-up for a revenue sharing partnership where ads are displayed beside each video and the revenue handed down to the partner. Employs content-filtering to weed out inappropriate videos.

vidiLife LogoA basic video uploading and sharing site. Has the look & feel of YouTube in it’s teething stages. What’s with the outdated template design and grainy logos? Simplicity is good but eye-candy is the order of the day and in order to survive the web-age, you gotta indulge in it as quick as possible. Has a video rating system (on a scale of 10) that shows badges about the size of the Digg badges beside each video. Sports some pre-categorised sections like Funny, Music, Stupid, Amateur, Crazy etc. Photo uploads permitted too. Claims to allow unlimited uploads.

Vimeo LogoAnother cool video hosting service that has been around since end 2004 and reflects the Web 2.0 genre of web-design. They share helpful pointers with you in case you’re lacking ideas regarding creation of unique video content. In action are a bunch of highly configurable privacy options with which you can create fine-grained access control lists to allow only select group of people to view your videos. In short, you choose who exactly sees which of your videos. Has personalised homepage where you can neatly arrange all of your favourite videos. Allows tagging of videos.

Vume Logo VuMe (most likely pronounced as View-Me) pays you for uploading quality content – video, audio as well as photos. Small banner ads are displayed beside each of these and the revenue generated when visitors watch your content and partly passed down to you. Every hit on your video, image, or audio clip counts.

Zeec Logo Zeec is another German video hosting service that you won’t find so difficult to navigate around. This one too allows you to directly record / update videos off your webcam. The interface follows the Web 2.0 ideal and has a vague resemblance to the Last.FM music cum social networking site.

ZippyVideos Logo This one offers your own sub-domain under ZippyVideos to host your profile (e.g. profile.zippyvideos.com). Unlimited uploads are permitted pertaining to the fact that no single upload is greater than 20MB. Privacy options, video organisation and social networking are an integral part of the package.

Zoopy Logo Zoopy proudly presents itself as South Africa’s first video and photo sharing social network. It’s a pretty basic service with an easy-going note that can be spotted all over the site. There’s a standing challenge that attempts to coax the hidden director in you to come out into the limelight.

Did I miss out on any of the big ones? Feel free to leave a comment on your favourite one and I’ll add it to the list.

Cooliris: Get a full-page preview of links with this cool Firefox extension

Cooliris LogoThere are plenty of preview tools sprawled around the vastness of web – Snap Shots, GooglePreview etc. to name a few. Each come with its own set of features and modus operandi. For example, Snap Shots provides small thumbnail previews of a site when you hover your mouse over the link on the site. GooglePreview, which is an extension for Firefox provides automated snap shots of each site listed in a Search Results Page. But such tools have a big limitation. The previews offered are really tiny and are meant to give you a glimpse of the overall look/layout of the site. They don’t provide any real “previews” as such.

You may tend to think that Cooliris is just another preview tool – but that’s where you’ll go wrong. Cooliris has been designed ground up to overcome the limitations found in all such preview tools. Installation is as easy as any other Firefox extension and operation is seamless. Whenever you encounter a link on a page, hover your mouse on it and a small preview icon appears beside the link. Pointing your mouse on the preview icon pops open a small embedded window in the same page with a full-sized preview of the site.

Cooliris Preview Window Screen-shot

Here are some of the noteworthy features:

  • Preview web links, images, and videos without even clicking.

  • The ability to “Stack” previewed items into temporary bookmarks to review.

    Now this is one cool feature. Supposing you’re searching for details on a vacation trip to Hawaii. A standard search result would return you 1000s of pages on this topic. You can easily preview the sites without ever leaving the Search Results page, weed out the seedy looking ones and bookmark all of those which looked good. You can always come back to the bookmarked pile later on and review them.

  • In case you like a site, you’ve the ability to instantly send the link to friends and family with just a single mouse-click.

  • Perform sub-searches in Google, Wikipedia etc. by right-clicking on any selected phrase.

Best of all is that apart from Firefox, Cooliris supports many of the common browsers, e.g. IE, Safari and Flock. This is one tool that really complements your search results and makes you a far more efficient web-surfer.

To sum it all, Cooliris “gives you the power to browse and share the web faster than ever.

Get Cooliris today…