The Best Freebies Left on the Web

  • The Last Days of a Free Internet

    Just a few years ago, anyone could go on the Internet and have their pick of services to watch shows, download music and catch up on the news, all for free. But if recent events are any indication, those days may quickly be coming to an end. Most of the popular sites for downloading music and movies for free last decade, like Audiogalaxy and Limewire, have since been shut down, while remaining sites like the Pirate Bay continue to face legal pressure. Meanwhile, many of the legal alternatives to these sites have taken to charging for some – if not all – of their content. Hulu, a leading website for watching TV shows and movies online, limited the videos available for free and introduced a premium membership plan to access the rest for $8 a month. Once-free music downloading services like Napster have re-launched as subscription-only programs that charge $5 a month to stream songs, rather than allowing users to download them. Meanwhile, several major news organizations like The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and most recently, The New York Times, have launched pay walls to restrict the content that readers can see for free on their websites. The general trend is clearly for more online content to come with a price tag, but even in this environment, there is still an extensive supply of free stuff left on the Web, ranging from entertainment to software to educational resources. We’ve rounded up our favorite free online services, which we can only hope will continue to be free in the future. Photo Credit: Nytimes.com
    Music
  • Music

    The days of downloading free music may be coming to an end, but even if it were legal to do so, Grooveshark might still have rendered music downloading irrelevant. Grooveshark lets users stream virtually any song ever released on demand, as well as upload tracks from their own collections to the site’s network and build playlists from everyone's music. Users can’t download the songs outright, but then again, there’s little need to. They can stream music from any computer or tablet with Flash capabilities, and may eventually be able to access their accounts on smartphones, if Google and Apple approve their app. By comparison, downloading songs, storing them on a hard drive or on a CD and uploading those files to other devices is a much more clunky process. Grooveshark is completely free, though there is an optional premium option for $3 per month, which gets rid of all the advertisements on the site. Quite frankly though, the ads are not that intrusive to begin with. Photo Credit: Grooveshark.com
    TV Shows
  • TV Shows

    Even with the changes to its pricing policy, Hulu remains an excellent source for watching many current TV episodes and older movies online for free. However, the site limits the number of episodes available from each season and doesn’t carry certain channels, so if you’re looking to expand what you can watch for free, you may consider visiting Fancast, which streams recent episodes from shows like House and CSI:NY for free. Photo Credit: Xfinitytv.comcast.net
    E-books
  • E-books

    E-books are generally cheaper than hardcover and paperback editions, but for consumers worried about spending too much on their reading, there are plenty of e-books available for free online if you know where to look. Our favorite source by far is Project Gutenberg, a site that offers hundreds of free classics, ranging from the essays of Montaigne to the works of Edith Wharton, all of which are in the public domain since their copyrights expired. The site has an easy-to-use interface and ranks e-books by popularity, which can come in handy if you’re having trouble figuring out what to read. Photo Credit: Gutenberg.org
    Educational Courses
  • Educational Courses

    It’s no substitute for going to college, but if you’re looking to clarify material you learned in a class or brush up on a particular subject for your job, there are plenty of great courses available online with no cost attached. MIT’s Open Courseware may be the best known of the bunch, offering some 2,000 lectures on everything from introductory biology to linear algebra for anyone with an Internet connection. Then there’s the Khan Academy, another prominent online educational tool, that provides hundreds of free lectures on courses for all age groups, starting with basic algebra and history courses and going all the way up to classes on complex physics. Photo Credit: MIT.edu
    Phone Calls and Video Chats
  • Phone Calls and Video Chats

    For those trying to shed a few dollars from their phone bills each month, Skype and Google each offer great frugal options for calling friends. With both of these services, users can video chat between computers for free (as long as they have the right audio/visual equipment), and at least for the rest of this year, Google even lets users make free phone calls online to cell phones and landlines from their computers. Photo Credit: Apple.com
    Photo Editing
  • Photo Editing

    Whether you’re working on a school project or are just fixing up your family photo album, there will probably come a time when you’ll need to edit some pictures. Unfortunately, the software to do this can be pretty expensive. It may not be worth the price tag, unless you’re a professional photographer or run a website where you need it every day, so instead consider using Pixlr or Photoshop Express, two free online tools that let users do much of the same editing as paid alternatives do. With these services, you can crop and realign images, change the color scheme or lighting and touch up photos to eliminate red eye or even whiten teeth. Photo Credit: Photoshop.com
    Edit Videos
  • Edit Videos

    Like editing photos, it can get expensive to buy video editing software, but for those just looking to do some basic editing work, YouTube launched a free tool earlier this year. The YouTube editor gives users the ability to splice video clips together, trim them at will and even add in some background music. And of course, once you’ve finished editing the video, you can upload it to YouTube for free and broadcast it to the world. Photo Credit: Youtube.com
    Record Music
  • Record Music

    If you’re a struggling artist, take heart: You don’t have to dump money on a fancy recording studio to lay down your tracks. Audacity offers a free and simple software that can be downloaded to a Mac or PC to record songs and edit tracks. The quality may not be quite as good as in a studio, but just consider it the modern day equivalent of a four-track. (Ask your parents if you don’t know what that is.) Photo Credit: Audacity.soundforge.net
    File Storage
  • File Storage

    Rather than spend money on a USB drive or external hard drive, you can store many of your files for free online. Dropbox lets users store up to 2 GB of music files, Microsoft Word documents and more for free, which can be accessed from any computer; Amazon’s Cloud Drive offers up to 5 GB of free music storage, which will stream your music to any computer or mobile device that runs on the Android operating system. Photo Credit: Dropbox.com
    Budgeting Tools
  • Budgeting Tools

    The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money paying for budgeting software. After all, it kind of defeats the whole point. But in recent years, several new sites have launched to help consumers manage their finances and stick to a tight budget. Perhaps the most notable is Mint.com, which uses your bank account information to keep track of your purchases and lets you set spending limits by specific shopping categories to stop you from throwing away too much of your paycheck on beer. Photo Credit: Mint.com
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