Webbys signal changes in Internet

By STOKELY BAKSH, UPI Technology Correspondent  |  June 15, 2006 at 9:02 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 13 (UPI) -- You know you're at the Webby Awards, when winners and nominees armed with their digital camera, camera phone, Palm Pilot camera, and other electronic recording device are crowded around the stage trying to take a photo of Prince.

That was the last award presentation closing out Monday night's Webby Awards held at the Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, honoring Prince with a lifetime achievement award as the first major artist to release his 1997 album "Crystal Ball" exclusively online and his New Power Generations Web site.

The Webby Awards from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences honors excellence in Web design, functionality, and creativity every year and was hosted for a second time by comedian Rob Corddry of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Other Special Achievement honorees this year went to founders -- Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe -- of MySpace.com for Breakout of the Year, Gorillaz as Artist of the year, Webby Entrepreneur of the Year Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban, Webby Person of the Year New York Times columnist and author of "The World if Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century" Thomas Friedman, and second Lifetime Achievement recipient Robert Kahn noted as a co-founder of the Internet.

"It was really exciting to be here earlier because I was not only interviewed by a whole host of news organizations I have never heard of before, but with various devices I have never been interviewed with before from cell phones to cameras to handheld I-don't-know-what," said prominent journalist Thomas Friedman in his acceptance speech of how the scene reminded him of the tipping point in regards to the Internet.

His speech surfaced on YouTube.com thanks to Editor & Publisher.

"I think the way I would like to personally describe this point, is this -- whatever can be done, will be done," added Friedman, "If you got an idea, don't wait six months, because there are so many people connected, so many cheap tools of collaboration and connectivity. ... There's only one question, will it be done by you or to you."

The Academy, made up of some 535- Web, business and creative experts from various industries -- musician David Bowie, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening to name a few -- determined the winners of the 69 categories this year.

And this year's nominations included 5,500 entries from more than 40 countries for categories in consumer and culture, film, fashion and politics, and for debut categories including best in Political Blog, Business Blog, Culture Blog and Podcast as well as Best use of Video or Moving Image.

Criteria of all sites were based on content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, interactivity, and overall experience.

Additionally, The Webby People's Voice Awards presented by Verizon allowed individuals to vote for their favorite Web sites in all Webby categories.

Title sponsors for the event included AOL.com and The Creative Group.

Still for the Webby Awards, star-studded in its own respect, recognized many of those in cyberspace who largely remain anonymous to the billions of online viewers who spend time and money on the growing education, social, and commercialized institution that has been created by entrepreneurs over the information superhighway -- even disappearing behind the masses were infamous MySpace.com founders.

But as Webby founder Tiffany Shlain noted, that as "communication tools have evolved, the power of dispersing information has evolved too," comparing the Web to a long-time relationship with someone.

And that's what those recognized at the awards event share in common, evolving the technology to communicate with users in new, innovative ways.

Already these changes have began, as suggested by the Web Awards Top Web Trends in 2006, signaling the convergent mobile phone to include scan, voice, image and sensor recognition, evolving online video or Internet television, selling small products for small prices online in the wake of ring tones, more intuitive technology for search engines, and the growing adoption of citywide wireless access.

Perhaps, even next year, the Webby Awards will have to add a new category for best .mobi site, domains used specifically for mobile phones, as registry is completely open to the public by the end of summer.

Nominee Greg Selkoe of online urban street wear boutique Karmaloop said that as a large consumer base for 18 to 25 year olds trendsetters since 1999, the company has grown up with a generation whose preferred method of shopping is via the Internet.

And selling retail on the mobile is likely, as the company now looks into that, according to Selkoe.

"Any medium that connects to the Internet like the mobile phone is a natural extension of connecting with customers over the Internet," he said.

Meanwhile, Head of Web Services at the Library of Congress Kevin Novak noted the Institution, who won the People's Voice Award for cultural institution, was making strides in making more than 22 million items available and more accessible to the public as well as providing a more unique online experience to the some 4 billion hits it receives per year.

"We're an authority for information ... and pushing the limits of technology," said Novak, who mentions the Institution was also working on a project to extend the Institution's visitor experience online.

CEO Alexander Tsiaras of Anatomical Travelogue Inc. credited with The InVision Guide to a Healthy Heart -- an interactive Web site that shows 3-D dimensions of the cardiovascular system, medical problems, treatments, and lifestyle options -- says his company is producing the next generation in health information.

"People want visuals, interaction, and engaging activities," said Tsiaras, whose site won a Webby award for best in health. "Right now, health information is all hypertext information. You might as well just go to Barnes and Nobles to get the book."

And 72hours.org, developed by the San Francisco's Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security, is the Webby winner for best government site which provides disaster and emergency information and has so far had requests from other parts of the country for similar emergency sites including Boston and Florida.

"It's such an overwhelming topic with overwhelming information," said Amy Ramirez, an emergency planner with the organization, "but the site provides advice on taking the simple steps. The idea is to the take some fear out of it and make it more intuitive."

They also planned the site as a way to present a user-friendly platform for getting emergency information to the public, she added.

Google Earth, Google Maps, Flickr, NPR, BBC and THE BOOK OF COOL were among those who walked away with wins in multiple categories.

And keeping with tradition, winners of both the Webby Awards and People's Voice Awards were once again limited to five-word acceptance speeches; last year's memorable five-word speeches included one from Webby Lifetime Achievement Award honoree former presidential candidate Al Gore, who said, "Please don't recount this vote."

Among this year's notable five-word speeches included:

-- "Liberals have mojo; we win." -- MotherJones.com for the Peoples' Voice award for politics.

-- "Sports? Pornography? Sports? Pornography? Sports." -- ESPN.com for best in sports site.

-- "Make more magnificent map mash-ups." -- Google Maps for the People's Voice Award in best practices.

-- "Announcing Goggle Earth 4 Beta" -- Google Earth won for best visual design in function.

-- "Two crackers fighting racism, yo." -- Webby winner Remember Segregation for best in home/welcome page.

-- "Darlings, make blog, not war." -- Arianna Huffington won for best political blog with The Huffington Post.

-- "BabyCenter ... you push, we deliver." -- BabyCenter won the People's Voice winner for site relating to family and parenting

-- "Gavin Newsom for President 2024." -- Webby winner to 72hrs.org for best in government site.

-- "Jewish American Princesses ... Smokin." -- Webby winner Jdate for social networking.

-- "I propose, Elizabeth said yes." -- People's Voice winner for personal Web site.


A full list of Webby and People Voice winners as well as five-word speeches can be found at www.webbyawards.com.

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