I touched Prince last night. That's basically the headline for the 10th annual Webbys, which I attended along with several colleagues. Prince, who was on hand to receive a lifetime achievement award for being among the first artists to make his music available online, thanked the crowd, played a song, and then skipped out of the ballroom, right past Inc.'s table. I reached out and tapped him on the shoulder, to the disapproving looks of his bodyguards.
Obviously, the most interesting thing about the Webbys is the sheer diversity of the sites and businesses represented. I thought it was interesting that, despite a lot of cranky press recently about Google, the various ambassadors for winners like Google Maps and Google Earth were enthusiastically cheered by the crowd.
Inc. was nominated for best business blog but alas, we did not win.
Arianna Huffington won the award for best political blog. MySpace won breakout site of the year, and Mark Cuban, who did not attend because he was busy with that whole NBA thing, was named entrepreneur of the year.
Other honorees included PayPal, Expedia, Flickr, Yahoo, Dell's midsize business site, and Toyota's Scion site.
Tom Friedman won an award and presented his "World is Flat" speech for the umpteenth time.
Because there are so many winners, all non-Friedmans are required to keep their speeches to five words. Some find the soul of wit, while others make ten syllables too much to endure.
Last year, for example, Al Gore stole the show, accepting an honorary award by saying, "Please don't recount this vote."
Last night, it seemed remarkable that ESPN was funnier than The Onion.
The Onion: (guy pretends to accept mobile phone call) "I gotta take this."
ESPN: "Sports? Pornography? Sports? Pornography? Sports."
The winner for JDate was one of several bawdy winners: "Jewish American Princesses—smokin'!"
The guy from Tijuanaflats.com said, "Chipolte can kiss my ass."
A woman from National Geographic said, "More than just bare breasts."
The crowd favorite, though, was the winner who accepted for the website Change of HAART, which serves people who are HIV+. "Fight HIV with your heart," he said. The unexpectedly sweet moment was a reminder that the Internet does so much more than enabling college kids to share video of themselves lipsynching "Total Eclipse of the Heart".
(Here's the link for the list of winners and their speeches.)