In 1899, Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents, declared, "Everything that can be invented has been invented." Boy, would he be eating crow today.
In a stupendous celebration of the inaccuracy of this pronouncement, the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences (http://www.iadas.net) has just announced the 110 nominees for the Third Annual Webby Awards. Hailed as the Oscars of the Net, the Webbys celebrate cyberspace and those who boldly go where no one could have fathomed going in 1899.
In a battle of the coasts, San Francisco beat out New York last summer as the once and future city to sponsor the big to-do, which will be held this year on March 18. As Wired News reported in July, "There's a lot more at stake than a glamorous ceremony: It's a fight for the capital of new media."
New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani offered Radio City Music Hall, but San Francisco triumphed and this year, Webby gala-goers will gallivant at the city's newly renovated and seismically safe (to the tune of $300 million) City Hall, now decreed a Beaux Arts national landmark. Three years ago, the first Webbys were held at Bimbo's, an intimate nightclub in San Francisco's North Beach.
This year, however, more than 3,000 "digerati" and celebrities from around the globe are expected to descend on San Francisco while hundreds of thousands more tune in to the 3-D Webcast. Most fun of all, the judges comprise a who's who of celebrity cyber-enthusiasts, including the likes of David Bowie (judging music) and Ariana Huffington (politics). Other celebrity judges are Tina Brown in print/zines, Francis Ford Coppola in film, Esther Dyson in finance, Deborah Norville in news, Kate Spade in fashion and Dilbert creator Scott Adams in humor.
The 22 categories for which Web-meisters can win Webbys include several new groups, such as fashion and finance, and the trendy new entity, the Portal.
Last year the awards encapsulated two of the Internet's chief attributes: its maverick, grass-roots nature and its fast-changing unpredictability. It was a testament to the populist spirit of the Web that the winners ranged from deep-pocketed, silver-spooned sites such as CBS SportsLine (http://www.sportsline.com/) and CNN/Time All Politics (http://cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/) to such shoestring, individualist sites as Bert Is Evil! (http://fractalcow.com/bert/) and Entropy8 (http://www.entropy8.com/).
And though the '99 Webbys salute commerce and finance Web sites, the nominations are still chock-full of eccentricity and unconventionality.
"The 1999 Webby Award nominees truly reflect the diversity and creativity that make the Web such an amazing place to engage, entangle and explore," said Tiffany Shlain, president of the academy and creative director/executive producer of the Webby Awards. "We're thrilled that this year's nominees range from sites produced by single artists to Web powerhouses, and that they hail from around the globe, including Ireland, Great Britain and Russia. They certainly represent the best and brightest of what the Web has to offer."
Some of this year's nominees already have the flashy Webby statue on their cyber-mantel. Such sites include Salon Magazine (http://www.salonmag.com/), the Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com/) and Bezerk (purveyors of You Don't Know Jack at http://www.bezerk.com/).
Some really renegade sites that are getting first-time recognition include Unamerican Activities (http://www.unamerican.com/), makers of "industrial strength propaganda"; and the Yuckiest Site on the Internet (www.yucky.com), who give you the lowdown on a host of icky bodily functions.
The public has been invited to cast votes for the People's Voice Awards. In a tribute to democracy on the Web, Shlain said that more than 200,000 are expected to vote online at the Webby Awards Web site, www.webbyawards.com.
That site also features the full list of the nominees. A sub-site (http://www.webbyawards.com/best/#ARTS) has links to all five nominees in each of the 22 categories. This page is, indeed, the ultimate in bookmarks.