“And the Webby goes to . . .”

A conversation with Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby Awards

Winners of the 9th Annual Webby Awards for the best Web sites around the world were announced during a gala celebration June 6 at New York City’s Gotham Hall. The Daily Show’s Rob Corddry hosted the event, which featured former Vice-President Al Gore, recipient of the Webby Lifetime Achievement.

The Webbys are nominated and voted on by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (http://www.iadas.net), a 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, visionaries and creative celebrities. (Note: I’m a member, listed between Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s and Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons.)

I caught up with Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain to find out what she thinks about this year’s crop of winners.

DANA GREENLEE: Tell us about the 9th Annual Webby Awards. I’m sure you have your favorites.

TIFFFANY SHLAIN: Oh, there are so many this year: BookCrossing.com is a great site. It allows you to record in a book that you love so that you can leave it on a park bench and someone else can then go the Web site and say what they thought about it before they pass it along.

GREENLEE: What category is that in? How many categories do you have?

SHLAIN: We doubled the number of categories because there was so much growth on the Web. We used to have 30 – now we have over 65. That’s the way the Web is these days. You really have to put your arms around the best of the stuff that’s being created. It hits every aspect of our lives.

GREENLEE: Were there any surprises with the winners this year?

SHLAIN: I think I’m always surprised by the sites that win a Webby Awards vs. the People’s Voice Award. The distinction is the Webby Awards are given by the judges whereas the People’s Voice Awards are given by the people. It’s very rare that a site wins from both the judges and the people.

GREENLEE: Did any win in both? I think Google usually does.

SHLAIN: ConsumerReports.org won both. It’s a great site. BoingBoing won (http://www.boingboing.net ) for blogging – everyone likes that, too.

GREENLEE: Your event was in New York City. Did people come from outside the United States to attend?

SHLAIN: Yes, we had winners and honorees fly in from Korea, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, England, New Zealand. Rob Corddry of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was the emcee. The five-word acceptance speeches never got boring. We had one woman give her acceptance speech in charades.

GREENLEE: Former Vice-President Al Gore attended to receive his lifetime achievement award. What was behind that?

SHLAIN: He made more contributions to the foundation of the Internet being for the public good, getting it into libraries and schools as a senator and vice-president. It was one of those political things that just got spun in circles in the 2000 election and, instead of getting a huge medal and honor, he was ridiculed for it. It was a great moment. He got a standing ovation and Vint Cerf, the father of the Internet, came out onto the stage and said, “Here are my five words—you all invented it”, after he had heard everyone’s five word accepted speeches from 60 categories with such diversity – it was really moving.

GREENLEE: There is nothing more communal than the Internet.

9th Annual Webby Awards

The Webby Lifetime Achievement Award: Former Vice President Al Gore
Webby Person of the Year: Craig Newmark of http://www.craigslist.org
The Webby Artist of the Year: The Kleptones – http://www.kleptones.com
The Webby Breakout of the Year Award: http://www.flickr.com.

Webby Award winners ranged from powerhouses like Mercedes-Benz USA (Automotive), Google (Best Practices), Merck (Health), and Skype (Telecommunications), and to up-and-coming or lesser-known sites like Graffiti Archaelogy (Arts), Dogster (Community), Rtm86.com (Personal Web Site), and 43 Things (Social Networking).

People’s Voice winners included Web giants like cars.com (Automotive), ING Direct (Banking/Bill Paying), Yahoo! Hotjobs (Employment) and ESPN (Sports), and new favorites like BookCrossing.com (Community), Eddie Izzard (Humor), 101 Cookbooks (Personal Site) and BrandonBird.com (Weird).

Thirteen sites won both a Webby Award and a People’s Voice Award including: SK Telecom Mobile Museum (Animation or Moving Image); Google (Best Practices); Boing Boing (Blog); McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (Copy/Writing), Adobe’s Words at Play (Home/Welcome Page); Consumer Reports (Guides/Ratings/Reviews); CNET’s Download.com (IT Hardware/Software); BBC OneMusic (Music); BBC News (News); Virgin Radio (Radio); Chipotle (Restaurant); SingingFish.com (Services); Comedy Central’s Indecision 2004 (Television); and ChannelOne.com (Youth).

For a full list of winners, visit http://www.webbyawards.com

For more conversation with Tiffany Shlain and the Webby Awards, the full interview will be online at http://www.WebTalkRadio.com next week.

Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated radio and webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.

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