By now, no one needs to be told yet again what a difference a year can make for e-commerce and the Net. But a stark reminder is taking place in San Francisco on Wednesday, in the form of the Webby Awards.
This is supposed to be a celebration of all that’s right with the Web, mind you. But last year’s music winner, Napster, has gone silent while services nominee Webvan is just plain gone.
Of course, the 2001 Webbys are not supposed to be about the past. They are about the present and future of the Net. And what’s wrong with recognizing the achievements of deserving Web sites?
To put it another way: Every other industry has its awards ceremony, so whynot the Web? Because the Web isn’t ready for prime time yet.
Think of the effect of lauding a Web site one month, only to have it falloff the face of the earth the next.
If e-commerce and the Web hope to avoid becoming the punchline of jokes around the executive board rooms of the world, the Webby folk should try to contain their momentary glee and fleeting fascination with the next big thing.
It’s true that many outside forces are at work here. The private and public equity markets that turned their backs on Webvan can’t be controlled by the Webby people or their nominees. Neither, for that matter, can the courts that helped put the kibosh on Napster.
But that’s just the point. If the Webby awards must resort to choosing award winners by grasping for grains of sand as they slip through the hourglass on their way to dot-com infamy, it may be time to cool it.
The arts world has an advantage here, and that’s where the comparison between the Webbys and the Oscars and Emmys fall short. A film hits theaters, it is seen, reviewed, enjoyed, lauded with awards. It’s a done deal. The Oscars aren’t given to film studios or production companies, but to specific examples of their work.
There’s safety there. They’re awarding not what a company will do — or even is doing at the moment. Instead, the Oscars and Emmys recognize what has been accomplished, a snapshot in time.
The Webbys, on the other hand, try to pick out the cream of the online crop, but have a less than stellar track record for doing so.
Flip a Coin
There have also been legitimate questions raised about the selections themselves. Often, they appear to be driven more by popularity or eye-popping good looks than quality and staying power.
This is supposed to be the industry’s annual event, but the judges include David Bowie and Francis Ford Coppola. So, you have to ask yourself whether the best sites are really being selected.
There’s no sign the Webbys are going to lay low until the Internet can get its sea legs. No, instead, they’ve moved the event to bigger digs. In other words, the Webbys are here to stay.
But then again, that’s probably what they said about Webvan and Napster.
Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.