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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Webbys celebrate survival
ABC News' Sam Donaldson, the host of the Webby Awards pre-show on, celebrates with a guest at the 5th Annual Webby Awards in San Francisco. Photo: Laurie Blavin
The ceremony tried to dispel the gloom
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson at the Webbys in San Francisco

As the Webby Awards began in San Francisco, the words Natural Selection flashed on the screen.

It was an apt metaphor for the last year on the internet as the Darwinian law of survival of the fittest hit the New Economy with a vengeance.

The crash of the dot.coms has left a swath of commercial carnage across the internet.

Before the ceremony, one dot.commer sat outside with a sign - Will Trade Stock Options for Food

But despite the downturn, the Webbys maintained their quirky exuberance.

The awards tout themselves as the Oscars of the Web, but on Wednesday night, in addition to paying homage to the creativity and excellence on the web, they also paid tribute to those who had weathered the hard times of the last year.

"Tonight we are not only honouring excellence, we're also honouring tenacity and survival," said Tiffany Schlain, as she opened up the fifth annual Webbys, adding: " I don't think there is any one of us who over the last year hasn't had to do with less."

She listed herself as not only the founder and director of the Webbys but also as a survivor.

Tiffany Shlain, the founder of the Webby Awards, with Vint Cerf, one of the founders of the Internet and presenter of the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo: Laurie Blavin
Tiffany Schlain with Vint Cerf: "Honouring survival"
But the downturn could not dampen the Webbys' spirit of frivolity.

Emcee Alan Cumming said that on his way over to the awards ceremony, he ran into a homeless man wearing a Webvan hat.

Webvan was an online grocer that burned through millions of venture capital funding only to go bust.

Mr Cumming said of the homeless man: "He asked me for a quarter so he could buy a couple of shares of DoubleClick," an online advertising company.

The downturn was a constant theme running in the background of this year's Webby Awards. refugees

Before the ceremony, one dot.commer sat outside with a sign: "Will Trade Stock Options for Food."

It was Thomas Musante's idea of a joke. He said he was making fun of the idea of refugees.

The staff of VolunteerMatch, winner of two Webby Awards, for Best Activism Site and Best Services Site. Photo: Laurie Blavin
The downturn could not dampen the spirit of frivolity
For five years, he has worked in the internet industry, and his list of former employers reads like a who's who of has-beens.

His girlfriend was recently laid off by an internet company. Like so many dot.commers, she bought stock options, hoping that the market would make her rich.

Instead, they are now worth less than she paid for them.

But Mr Musante is upbeat. He sees a rebirth for the industry chastened by the excesses of the boom.

Growing up

Instead of running from the industry, he dived right back in with his own start up company.

The internet is growing up, and some at the Webbys were there for its birth.

Vint Cerf is often referred to as the Father of the Internet. He helped design the protocols that make the internet possible.

Now the senior vice president of internet architecture at Worldcom says that the irrational exuberance of the boom will give way to more sustainable growth.

New services

The underlying growth of the internet has not diminished. He said that internet use continues to grow by 80 to 100% per month.

And he predicted that in the next year, people would continue to see new applications, a wider uptake of broadband and more mobile internet use and uses including new services for cars.

In the early days of the net, he knew he was dealing with an extremely powerful technology, and he said the users are driving the continuing evolution of the internet.

"It's not a cadre of people locked up in rooms somewhere who are driving this. It's the people who get out there and use the net. They are fearless," he said.

See also:

19 Jul 01 | New Media
'Net Oscars' handed out
18 Jul 01 | New Media
BBC nets radio Webby
18 Jul 01 | New Media
Web world prepares for 'net Oscars'
26 Apr 01 | New Media
Awards set to honour websites
19 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
Webbies' Website wonders
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