Once a year all of the world gets together to celebrate the best of the lovely Internet we call home. Monday night, the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York played host to comedians, musicians, journalists, and all manner of web professionals gathered to present the 16th Annual Webby Awards. The awards reflect Internet achievement and meaningful social and cultural contributions as judged by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
The always-effervescent Patton Oswalt served as Master of Ceremonies. His opening monologue included jokes about the set (“on loan from Breaking Bad: The Musical!”), his physique (“that’s right, they got the other fat guy from King of Queens…I look like the Internet personified.”), Mark Zuckerberg’s wedding vows (“By agreeing to marry Mark Zuckerberg, you consent to give him full access to all of your information. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights like photos and videos, you specifically give him the following information…You may now click ‘like’ and tag the bride.”).
The Webbys are known for their fun, light-hearted atmosphere, but that didn’t prevent more serious tones from showing through. The night featured a charming tribute to the late Steve Jobs, presented by Justin Long, John Hodgman, and Richard Dreyfuss. All three have appeared in Apple advertising over the years. The tribute was capped by a video montage of reflections upon Jobs by high-profile entertainers and politicians, Bono, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and even Barack Obama among them.
Other more serious moments included a presentation by Mashable founder Pete Cashmore on the Internet’s role in protest within the past year. The Arab Spring, the SOPA/PIPA blackouts,and the Trayvon Martin shooting controversy were all lauded as examples of Internet protest’s real-world results. Webby President David-Michael Davies also recognized the Remember Me? project created by Blue State Digital and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Remember Me? is an online collaborative effort to identify, through photo archives, children displaced by the Holocaust. The award was accepted by one of the survivors identified through the project, Hollywood cinematographer Tibor Sands.
Comedian Louis C.K. was chosen as the Webby Award’s Person Of The Year. He has been celebrated not only for his special brand of cringe-worthy comedy but also for the way he distributes his work. C.K. recorded a stand-up special “Live At The Beacon Theater” and released it directly via his website for $5. The special took the world by storm, earning over a million dollars in just a few short weeks. Following the success of C.K.’s distribution plan, many other comedians have followed suit or announced plans to do so in the near future.
Artists Passion Pit and Key of Awesome each performed a song during the ceremony. Passion Pit chose their new single, “Take A Walk,” while Key of Awesome sang about posting pictures of food online, titled “Eat It, Don’t Tweet It.”
Photo-sharing program Instagram was recognized as the 2012 breakout application of the year. The app, which allows users to take photos with their smartphones, edit them via vintage film-inspired filters, and share them online, was recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion.
The Meme of the Year award was given to Nyan Cat, a pop-tart shaped cat gif with rainbow tail that has been near ubiquitous for the past few months.
One of the more amusing features of the night (and a relief for anyone watching) was the Webbys insistence of a five word cap on acceptance speeches. No more drunken ramblings or monumental lists of second cousins to thank. Instead, these speeches reflected simple, clean, and often witty gratitude.
A small collection of winners and their acceptance speeches is shown below.
Breakout of the Year: Instagram – “This here requires no filter.”
Best Social Media: Pinterest – “Pinterest loves you, Ryan Gosling”
Lifetime Achievement Award: Michael Bloomberg – “Make it here, then everywhere”
Humor, People’s Voice Winner: Cracked – “Wow. Much bigger than Bloomberg’s” (referring to a fake trophy they brought onstage)
Artist of the Year: Bjork – “A, E, I, O, U!”
Person of the Year: Louis C.K. – “When I die, bye bye.”
To learn more about the Awards, see more winners, and view an expansive video archive of last night’s winners, visit the official website of the 2012 Webby awards.