The Webbys and Cool Site both crown top URLs -- A comparison of the two awards for the Internet

By Noah Robischon
Updated February 12, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
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”I just can’t believe that you’re going to continue talking while we do this!” emcee Robin Leach shouted from the stage of the Cool Site of the Year Awards in New York City Jan. 21 as the audience heckled him mercilessly. The ex-host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous couldn’t get the crowd of website creators and marketers — the Rich (on paper) and Unfamous — to stop eating, swing-dancing, and sniffing each other’s URLs long enough to start the show. ”He should be tossed off one of those yachts he does his show on,” sneered a circulation exec from Fast Company magazine.

Yes, it’s the Oscars, Web style. At least that’s what the organizers of the Cool Site of the Year would have you think. But another, swankier ceremony may usurp the title: The Webby Awards, taking place March 18 in San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre, are also being touted as the Oscars of the Web. So which is the real contender?

Best Titleholder
Cool Site originated the idea of honoring the year’s best website in 1995 as an outgrowth of the Cool Site of the Day, a hugely popular Web page that showcases hip websites. The three-year-old Webby Awards are backed by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences — and any organization that claims to be an ”academy” has to be taken more seriously than one that claims to be ”cool.” Plus, the Webby balloting process is audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the same accounting firm that serves the Oscars.
Winner: Webby Awards

Best Judgment
In a year in which the Web was finally recognized by the mainstream as a valid news and entertainment outlet, the Cool Site of this year was…How Stuff Works, which explains such exciting things as ”How Boolean Logic Works.” And a half-dozen Webby nominees, including Salon, The Onion, Film.com, Travelocity, and Gist TV Listings, were on the list last year — and the year before.
Winner: If they mean to reflect the Web’s impact on current events and popular culture the way the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys do, both awards are losers. The Drudge Report was by far the most important site of 1998, but it wasn’t nominated by anyone; neither was The Starr Report, the first live birth on the Internet, coverage of the Louise Woodward verdict, or the infamous ourfirsttime.com, which could have at least been awarded Best Hoax.

Best Judges
Cool Site of the Year winners are picked by Web surfers who vote online. There are two types of awards given out at the Webbys: One set of winners is chosen online by popular vote; the other is chosen by such celebs as David Bowie, who, in fact, will judge the music category this year. The popular-vote award is true to the spirit of the Web. But whom would you rather get a prize from?
Winner: Webby Awards

The Envelop, Please
While New York City is a better awards-show locale than San Francisco, Manhattan’s Webster Hall was no place for an awards ceremony. When Leach finally shut the audience up, the CEO from eBay was a no-show and his trophy was intercepted by a prankster who plans to sell it — on eBay.
Winner: Cool Site’s not-ready-for-prime-time antics will be hard to beat. Can the Webbys counter with a Dancing Webmasters production number?

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