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Oh, the pain. About 500 Web companies closed in 2001 and 1,000 more had been acquired as of the end of October. Poor Web critics imagined futures as compadres with Maytag repairmen. Still, BusinessWeek and Online found a lot to like--even if the Web in 2001 couldn't match the innovation or élan of 1999. Talk about being in the right place at the right time: We found this site (named for the dismal science) ahead of the pack on key economic trends. It's no longer free, but decision-makers will find it worth the $159-a-year subscription. and With September 11 focusing our attention on donating our money and our time, these sites score. has few peers in sizing up charities, zeroing in on how much gets spent on overhead. VolunteerMatch tracks community service openings to match needs with volunteers' skills and interests. Microsoft's progress in 2001 is tough to ignore. MSN Music's online radio is truly slick, mixing a broad selection of styles with software that chooses specific tunes by tempo and by the mood you want to set. MSN's takeover of helps a little, and its new alliance with ubersports site helps lots. Plus, early peeks at Microsoft's MyServices platform, which will help MSN software worm its way into keeping track of things ranging from money management to car maintenance, are intriguing. Archrival America Online is still a better portal, but watch this space. In another blow to AOL, our critic liked this online movie ticket service better than AOL's Moviefone. It sells tickets to more theaters and was easier to use in our tests. Lots of sites let you store digital pictures and turn them into cards and gifts. Snapfish does the best job balancing the needs of people who use digital cameras and the majority who still use film. Cheap prints, prompt mail-order service, and easy-to-use tools for sharing pictures over the Web make choosing this site a snap. We have a weakness for wiseacres, and this site for postmodern manners scratched our itch. Submit your own questions and take your chances following advice from Lesley Carlin and Honore McDonough Ervin, the site's creators. Funny and smart enough that Letitia Baldridge blurbed their new book. One delightful thing about Baltimore is the holiday lunacy on 34th Street, where the blue-collar-meets-hip-artist Hampden neighborhood stages its miracle of riotously gaudy lights. It has to be seen to be believed, as ex-residents like me know.'s photos and live Webcam capture this block-long scene of more than 10,000 lights and giant rooftop monuments to good cheer that pilgrims come from Washington to see. Grab the eggnog and log on.

Yeah, all this is nice--but we gave online grocery service a nice review in June, too, and it closed the next month. So our recommendation and 75 bucks will get your washer fixed. Tell the Maytag Man we said hi.

By Timothy J. Mullaney in New York

Edited by Larry Armstrong

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