It’s like the Academy Awards, only with about 50 more categories and a lot less cleavage.
Last week the 11 th annual Webby Awards ( www.webbyawards.com ) were presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, recognizing the top websites in 69 categories — as picked by Academy members and the general public.
If you’re looking for new websites to visit according to your interests, the nominees list is always a great place to start browsing. Although some websites have been nominated every year, like The Onion ( www.theonion.com ) in the Humour category, the judges do go out of their way to find new and different sites that are graphically elegant, technologically advanced, inventive, and work like they’re supposed to.
There’s not enough space in this column to list every single nominee and winner, but I’ve put together a short list of the sites and categories I think are the most interesting.
www.greenpeace.org/apple — Winner of the Activism Webby. Despite its hip, new age image, there are some serious concerns with Apple’s environmental record, both at the point of manufacture and post-market as their products are placed in the waste stream. It’s an interesting PC vs. Mac comparison you won’t see in the commercials.
www.zopa.com — Winner of the Banking category. It’s not available in North America yet, but the basic concept is genius. Let’s say you have $5,000 to lend that’s not going to make much interest in the bank, and somebody needs to borrow that $5,000, but doesn’t want to pay bank fees and interest rates. This site connects those two people, guaranteeing the loan, and ensuring a guaranteed, stable rate of interest and repayment for both parties. The lender gets more interest, and the loaner pays less back.
www.howstuffworks.com — Winner of the Best Copywriting Webby. Detailed, graphics rich explanations of how things work, and how to do things yourself. Indispensable for do-it-yourselfers and the chronically curious.
www.samorost.net/samorost2/ — Winner of the Games category. A fun, free, and beautifully designed online puzzle game. I’m considering paying for the full version so the designer will continue to make games of this kind. Everything is done by pointing and clicking with your mouse, and the puzzles get harder as you go. It’s easy to get stuck early — just click everything that moves and it should all come together for you. Also check out www.miniclip.com , http://adfg.fuelindustries.com , www.fantasysoapnet.com , and http://zwok-game.com .
www.yelp.com — Winner of Best Review site. Everything is reviewed from doctors to restaurants to beauty salons. It’s only available for the U.S. right now, but should expand to Canada soon.
www.thatguy.com — Winner of the Health category. All kinds of information and tips to help you avoid becoming ‘that guy’. Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense for some reason. The runner-up, www.webmd.com , is probably more useful from a health perspective but not nearly as fun.
www.collegehumor.com — The Onion always wins the Humo(u)r category, but there are some solid runners up this year, including College Humor, the Philips Norelco Bodygroom (www.shaveeverywhere.com), The Colbert Report (www.comedycentral.com), and Very Funny Ads (www.veryfunnyads.com).
www.clearification.com — A funny site sponsored by Microsoft Vista. I don’t get the connection to IT, the category this won, but then I’m not an IT guy. Maybe the cartoon guy is talking in code.
www.bp.com/carbonfootprint — Winner of Lifestyle. This site helps you figure out your carbon footprint, and provides insight on how to reduce your emissions. Sponsored by BP (formerly British Petroleum), but surprisingly useful and unbiased. Also check out the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Network, people’s choice winner for this category, at www.diynetwork.com.
www.last.fm — The winner of the Music award this year, Last.fm lets you type in a few artists you like, and it comes up with a list of similar musicians you might not know. They also have some free demo tracks from artists, links to artists’ websites, and concert listings. As well, this site will help you find an online radio station to match your tastes. Other Music nominees worth checking out are BBC Radio 1 ( www.bbc.co.uk/radio1 ) and TourFilter ( www.toufilter.com ) which provides comprehensive listings for tours in your area, along with sample tracks and links to blogs.
http://hubblesite.org — Winner of the Science award. The Hubble Telescope has been providing mind-blowing images of the Universe for the past 17 years, and despite a few technical glitches and breakdowns it continues to make amazing discoveries.
http://wikitravel.org — Winner of the Travel category. Before you go anywhere, stop here first. It’s all open source, so take all entries with a grain of salt, but most entries have been vetted by Wiki users and provide solid advice for travelers.
These sites are just the tip of the iceberg. With five entries in 69 categories, you could lose yourself for days in the Webby nominees list.