Cyberspace trailblazers and oddities receive honors at annual Webby Awards

Thursday, July 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Hundreds of dot-commers pushed aside the industry's financial doldrums as the glitzy and zany Webby Awards honored a slate of trailblazers in cyberspace.

The off-the-wall ceremony _ where acceptance speeches are limited to five words _ is the annual dot-com version of the Oscars.

It was born modestly in 1996 and now, in its fifth year, it's evolved into a flashy extravaganza that showcases the Internet community's innovation, irreverence and hucksterism.

A sold-out crowd of 3,000 attended the awards ceremony at San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House on Wednesday. About 400 tickets, ranging in price from $90 to $150, were sold to the general public, marking the first time that industry outsiders were allowed to attend the show.

While there is no premier award among the numerous categories, some winners stood out.

Google won in the Best Practices category for its strong Internet search engine. Lifetime achievement awards were presented to Doug Englebart, inventor of the computer mouse, and Ray Tomlinson, a major contributor to the invention and development of e-mail.

Organizers of the event rolled out the red carpet for attendees. And as in previous years, the attire was formal outlandish.

Many arrived for the event wearing bright purple and pink wigs. Randy Constan came dressed as Peter Pan in green tights _ he operates Peter Pan's Home Page, winner in the ``weird'' category.

``My site has nothing to do with making money,'' Constan said. ``But maybe that's why they nominated me.''

Other winners included Fact Monster in the Kids category; sputnik7 for best music Web site; and BBC World Service in the radio category.

A sense of melancholy hung over the annual bash. Since the Webbys handed out their last awards near the height of the dot-com boom, 534 Web sites have shut down, including at least 25 of the 135 nominees from last year's event.

Most of this year's 150 nominees are alive, though not all are doing well.,, The Motley Fool, and are just a few of the more well-known nominees that have had to fire workers this year to survive.

But the event's organizers were trying hard to keep the spotlight on the achievements of sites nominated in 30 categories.

Webbys founder Tiffany Shlain said the finances of the nominees and winners are immaterial.

``There have been TV shows that have been canceled that have won Emmys and movies that haven't done well at the box office that have won Oscars,'' Shlain said.

The Webbys judges included rock star David Bowie, movie director Francis Ford Coppola and X-Files star Gillian Anderson.