And the winner is ...

The geeks got their chance to be treated like film stars at the Webby Awards ceremony in San Francisco

The Webbies may bill themselves as the antidote to the Academy Awards, but that's a cover-up. Truth is, the internet awards gala has a severe case of Oscar envy.

The Webbies may bill themselves as the antidote to the Academy Awards, but that's a cover-up. Truth is, the internet awards gala has a severe case of Oscar envy.

It is a night for the web to recognise innovation and creativity from a remarkable variety of sites worldwide. Last Thursday many of the Net's leading designers and executives pulled up to San Francisco's Masonic Hall like movie stars.

Sure, there were no real groupies screaming for autographs like at that other awards ceremony. But when you're rolling in money as the Webby organisers apparently are, why worry? Just hire the fans.

"Oooooooh, oooooh, look who's here," said one of the rent-a-crowd girls, dressed in a 1940s dress and swooning as if Cary Grant had just pulled up. "Can I have your autograph pleeeeeease?" she asked again and again.

The event started out modestly enough four years ago in a San Francisco club called Bimbo's but has grown exponentially in prominence, budget and even star power since then. In this most wired of cities, organisers have had little trouble lining up A-list sponsors such as Intel, Price WaterhouseCoopers, and Hewlett Packard. A-list celebrities, however, remain somewhat more elusive.

Tony award winner Alan Cumming gamely hosted the event, comedienne Sandra Bernhard and celebrity editor Tina Brown made cameos, but the most rousing applause was reserved for Turkish internet phenomenon Mahir Cagri.

Mahir, the ping-pong playing romantic who gained worldwide celebrity status when word spread of his amateurish website I Kiss You!!, was discovered and playfully hijacked by digital pranksters. He positively basked in the approval of the more than 3,000 web-savvy guests.

If the ceremony is an "antidote" to the Oscars, as organiser Tiffany Shlain claims, it is for its brevity. Victory speeches are, by tradition, limited to five words so that each of the 27 awards - from introduction to highlight clip to euphoric stage exit - may be comfortably held in under two minutes.

But some winners went out of their way to tweak official noses with acceptance speeches that, while technically limited to five words, found ways to stretch their time in the spotlight. Susan Schaeffer, who collected the prize for Meriam-Webster's Word Central in the Education category slowly climbed the stage with dictionary in hand. When she arrived at the podium she found her glasses, took a deep breath, opened the tome and started with: "antidisestablishmentarianism" and proceeded with four words of similar length ending with a triumphal "supercalafragalisticexbealidocious".

Belgian-based artists Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey, who won the Webby's inaugural $30,000 prize for online art, embraced passionately five times for their "technically-by-the-rules" acceptance.

The awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, a group made up mostly of low-profile web luminaries and more than a few celebrities, including David Bowie, Francis Ford Coppola and Robin Williams.

While the awards have become increasingly glitzy, subversiveness and rebellion have not been nudged aside Top websites included corporate heavyweights ESPN.com (Sports category), MSNBC.com (TV) and Conde Nast's Epicurious (Living), but they also included many counterculture sites like AdBusters.com (Activism), Cocky Bastard (Personal) and Stile Project (Weird).

John Halcyon Styn (aka Cocky Bastard) - dressed in a white shag ankle- length coat, matching slippers and purse (made by his grandmother), glittering silver pants and unbuttoned shirt - was thrilled with his victory. "This is hard for me," he said, mocking the fact that he clearly revelled in the spotlight. "I sit in front of a computer all day."

As to what he would do next, Styn, who displays come-hither portraits of himself on his website under the title "beefcake", said with a mischievous grin.: "I gotta go porn."

But the truth is that despite organisers' Herculean efforts, the event still means very little outside a relatively small coterie of net junkies and insiders. Web voting for the People's Choice awards last year tallied just 110,000 and Webbies have been found to affect site traffic only marginally at best. According to web monitor Media Metrix, visits to nearly half of last year's winners declined the month after their awards.

"Let's face it," says Cate Schley, corporate marketing director at mobshop.com. "They still need fake paparazzi here. No one cares about this outside the industry."

A complete list of Webby Award winners can be found at www.webbyawards.com

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power