'And the winner is…' The Webby Awards handed out last week

The Webbys have come around again. This time, it is the 8th Annual Webby Awards, and winners for the best Websites around the globe were announced last week.

The Webbys shine a light on Websites and individual achieve-ment in creativity and technology online. And you can always count on the Webby list of nominees and winners to provide hours of surfing fun and inspiration if you’re looking to mimic a site that has done it right.

The Webby Awards is the brainchild of Tiffany Shlain. She is also its founder and director. Shlain is an Internet expert and a commentator for ABC News and Good Morning America. Newsweek has also honored her as one of their “Women Shaping the 21st Century.” Besides managing the Webbys, Shlain is an award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, the judging academy that presents the annual awards.

We caught up with Tiffany Shlain to talk about the current Net climate and what she thinks about this year’s crop of winners.

Q: What’s new with the Webby Awards this year?

Shlain: As the Web continues to grow, so do the Webby Awards. This past year we had our first Webby Business awards, which is a separate awards program that focuses on effectiveness in business strategies. Whereas the Webby Awards are about creativity, content, functionality and overall experience, we had so many requests to do one that really focuses on effectiveness

Q: The Webby – as well as the Web – are going strong.

Shlain: The Web is growing so much – it’s like the air we breathe. It started out as a fringe medium and then the boom happened and there was a lot of hype, but then the crash happened. The real boom, in my opinion, is – its just flourishing. It’s changing the way we view politics, the way we view the world, the way we do business – I don’t think there is an aspect of our lives that isn’t touched by the Web.

Q: You mentioned politics and I noticed Meetup.com won a Webby Award this year and they certainly made their mark this year in the presidential campaigns.

Shlain: Right. And also Howard Dean’s “The Blog for America” and the Dean Website were certainly pioneers in getting people’s head around that being the way to campaign – and everyone has followed suit.

Q: You list of all the winners at the Webby Awards Website.

Shlain: Yes, at www.webbyawards.com you can see all the nominees and the winners. It’s interesting to see who the judges picked vs. who the people picked. We have a huge academy of illustrious judges – everyone from David Bowie to Larry Ellison. (Writers note: Dana and Rob Greenlee are Webby Award judges.) We also let the people vote in our People’s Voice awards and a lot of times those are very different.

Q: Do you see a common thread amongst all the winners this year?

Shlain: I think that people really understand how to interact with the Web in new ways. If you look from the beginning, there was a period where people were distrustful of buying on the Web. I think that’s really gone. Just seeing the success of the e-commerce sites like eBay and it’s so much a part of our culture now to do our bills online and buy things online. Not only on a commerce level but on a community level we see Meetup.com and www.blogforamerica.com and LiveJournal.com – people aren’t just reading information on the Web, but engaging. They are adding their own info, they are going to events that they learned about on the Web, they are really exchanging and interacting in new and amazing ways.

That’s the exciting part for me – the network effect is that the more people that are online, the more possibilities happen. More people are coming on every day! The elections are being transformed by the Web. The war – you just can’t keep these images off the Web and these images are real, what’s really happening. There’s no media filter. If you look at the history of wars, during the Civil War, photography had just been invented. That’s how people experienced it. In World War II, it was about the radio and everyone experienced the war through radio. The Vietnam War was network news. The first Gulf War was CNN, who had just come around and had 24-hour news coverage. Now, with this war, it is the Internet. It is an unfiltered media by which we experienced this war.

Notable winners included:

– Two of the world’s leading public broadcasting networks won multiple awards. PBS.org won for Best Television and its P.O.V. Borders www.pbs.org/pov/borders/index_flash.html won for Best Broadband. BBC-affiliated web sites received three awards: BBC Human Body www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody (Best Education), BBC News www.bbc.co.uk/news (Best News), and BBC Sport news.bbc.co.uk/sport (Best Sports).

– In addition to the BBC wins, other international winners include: Colette www.colette.fr (Best Fashion; France); RAKU-GAKI.com www.raku-gaki.com (Best Personal Web Site; Japan); Map 24 www.map24.com (Best Technical Achievement; Germany) and Car Stuck Girls www.carstuckgirls.com (Best Weird Site; Germany).

– Meetup.com and Blog for America www.blogforamerica.com, two sites that transformed the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, won the Webby Award and People’s Voice Award, respectively, in the Best Politics category.
For more conversation with Tiffany Shlain and the Webby Awards, the full interview will broadcast Saturday on KLAY 1180 AM at 11 a.m. and is online at WebTalkGuys.com.

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.