Big guns and bigger ideas dominate Webby Awards list

John
John Gushue
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If there's one thing many people know about the Webby Awards, it's that the prizes - which are to the Internet what the Grammys are to music - come with mercifully short acceptance speeches. Stunningly short, actually, at just five words per category.

The nominations for this year's Webby Awards were announced Tuesday, and as I scrolled down the list, something popped in my head. Namely, I'm still scrolling.

If there's one thing many people know about the Webby Awards, it's that the prizes - which are to the Internet what the Grammys are to music - come with mercifully short acceptance speeches. Stunningly short, actually, at just five words per category.

The nominations for this year's Webby Awards were announced Tuesday, and as I scrolled down the list, something popped in my head. Namely, I'm still scrolling.

The Webbys now have more than 70 categories - and that's just in the main section, called "websites." There are three other separate branches, incorporating entries in interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile technologies. In other words, a whole heap of nominees to scroll past.

No wonder the winners are kept at five words apiece; even with just snippets for speeches, the awards night could still go on for hours.

Webby Awards

www.webbyawards.com/

Apparently, 8,000 different entries came in for this year's awards - the 11th time they've been handed out. That says something about the competition, but also about how the Internet has evolved into a gamut of services to meet every taste and inclination. The range of subject matter alone is hugely, wonderfully diverse.

It's a cliche that the Web has levelled the playing field, giving individuals and small companies as much of a chance to do something incredible online as the big fellas.

However, if you look at the list of this year's nominees, you'll notice that most submissions are made by large, well-established companies and organizations, and often advertising firms hired to generate buzz and interest. Sure, a youngster with a computer and a good idea can still make an impact, but the Web was long ago taken over by those with the deep pockets and resources.

Which isn't to say the work isn't good: quite the opposite. Indeed, the "best practices" category shows how yesterday's buccaneer becomes today's role model.

The nominees are http://del.icio.us, Digg, Facebook, Flickr and http://Last.fm, each of them a former upstart that within a few years has become a staple of Web culture. No other business can boast that kind of fast-ramp to credibility.

The winners will be announced in May. The public (i.e., you) can vote for the people's choice elements of the awards; head to the link above to find out how it works.

The deadline for voting is April 27. In the meantime, here are some of the sites nominated this year that are worthy of the recognition.

Office Webisodes

http://www.nbc.com/The_Office/video/nbc_off_web_101_20060712.shtml

During last summer's hiatus, NBC "aired" short, interstitial-style episodes of its hit comedy "The Office" on the Web. I suspect NBC really wanted to test the waters for Web-based content, rather than keep fans happy. Either way, it worked.

OwnYourC

http://www.ownyourc.com/

In the Youth category, this Colorado site aims to catch kids' attention while extolling the harms of tobacco. It's customizable and filled with tricks that appear to appeal to kids.

The site has already picked up some recognition for finding a novel way of spreading a public-health message.

Ikea Dream Kitchen

http://demo.fb.se/e/ikea/dreamkitchen/site/default.html

Nominated in the Visual Design category, Ikea adapts its playful marketing and strong aesthetic sense to a cool premise: spin your mouse around to see a wide variety of kitchens. At any point, you can click to see how a particular kitchen was constructed. Cool.

Send a message from Samuel L. Jackson

http://dev.snakesonaplane.varitalk.com

The movie "Snakes on a Plane" owes a special debt to the Web. Fans built an online frenzy months before the film came out (even prompting the filmmakers to do some reshoots). In return, fans got this, a viral marketing gimmick that was actually fun to use, in which Samuel L. Jackson's voice is adapted to a "personalized" message that can be phoned or e-mailed to anyone you like. This is a nominee in the interactive advertising categories.

Nothing But Nets

www.nothingbutnets.net/

A column in Sports Illustrated led to this campaign, which aims to fight malaria by making nets more accessible.

On board are basketball players (how could the NBA resist a title like this?), the UN Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - and, evidently, thousands upon thousands of kids wanting to do something meaningful with a few bucks.

Nominated among Charitable Organizations, this is a prime example of how the Web can galvanize public spirit.

John Gushue is a news writer for CBC.ca in St. John's. E-mail: surf@thetelegram.com. Read past Surf's Up columns and daily updates at his blog: http://johngushue.typepad.com

Organizations: Ikea, Sports Illustrated, NBA UN Foundation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Geographic location: Colorado, St. John's

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