Webbys honor Internet stars

Think back to what you were doing in 1996. Did it involve the Internet? Likely not, unless you were in college and you knew it as Mosaic or gopher.

However, the graphical Web was sprouting and a close community that saw its potential gathered to celebrate the best on the Web.

Thus, the Webbys were born.

The 10th Annual Webby Awards for the best Web sites around the world were announced this week.

A gala celebration feting the winners occurs June 12 in New York. For the second year in a row, Rob Corddry of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will emcee the evening’s festivities.

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).

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.

Winners fall under 69 business, consumer, and culture categories ranging from Community, Fashion, Film, and Politics. New categories this year include Podcasts, Best Visual Design, Business Blog, and Best Use of Video or Moving Image. The 10th Annual Webby Awards received a record 5,500 entries from over 40 countries around the world.

In addition, over 300,000 votes were cast by people around the world speaking out for their favorite sites as part of the People’s Voice Awards.

Webby founder Tiffany Shlain took a moment to share some of her thoughts on the state of the Web.

DANA GREENLEE: The Webbys — as well as the Web — are going strong.

TIFFANY 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.

GREENLEE: Last year, 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 acceptance speeches from 60 categories with such diversity — it was really moving.

GREENLEE: You list all the winners at the Webby Awards Web site, correct?

SHLAIN: Yes. At http://www.webbyawards.com you can see all the nominees and the winners. It’s interesting to see who the judges picked versus who the people picked. We have a huge academy of illustrious judges — everyone from David Bowie to Larry Ellison. We also let people vote in our People’s Voice awards and a lot of times those are very different.

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