SAN FRANCISCO -- The digerati rubbed elbows with the glitterati Friday night at the Webby Awards, an event based on the notion that the Internet -- once the domain of university researchers and computer engineers -- is all about celebrities and dressing up like Jane Jetson.
Surrounded by retro-futuristic trappings, the second annual Webbies honoured Web sites including Salon Magazine, the WELL and CitySearch New York City before a crowd of 2,000 new media types and celebrity guests in San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts.
The awards, 19 in all, ranged from the mainstream (CBS SportsLine, which won in the Sports category) to the obscure (Bert is Evil, which took the Weird category). Celebrity judges included basketball star Dennis Rodman and Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams.
Comedian Chris McGuire acted as host, admitting, "To me, the Web is a big, slow book." Mainstream sponsors also appeared, including Absolut Vodka.
The Webbies are not the only organisation to have thought of an awards show for the online world. Cool Site of the Day has its annual Cool Site of the Year, and the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences is planning a party for its gaming-oriented awards at this year's E3 conference.
Although a far cry from the titanic hype surrounding events like the Academy Awards, the Webbies are bigger than even a year ago, when they were held in a San Francisco night-club. As last year, the event was covered by major local radio and television media, and offered its own Webcast -- in 3-D, no less.
Still, to some the event seemed more a satire of an awards show than a big industry gala. The handing out of awards was finished in just an hour, with winners limited to five-word acceptance speeches. "Thanks. Keep listening," quipped the representative of AudioNet, winner in the Radio category.
"We take a very irreverent approach to the whole idea of an awards show," said Creative Director Tiffany Shlain. Guests quickly moved to the nearby Exploratorium museum for the more serious business of partying.
Winners included The Internet Movie Database in the Film category; CNN/Time AllPolitics in the Politics/Law category; and Entropy8 in the Arts category. A complete list will be available at the Webby Awards site.