It's hard to believe that this year will already be the 20th annual Webby Awards, named "the Internet's highest honor" by the New York Times. And while it's been two decades since the prestigious celebration of the greatest internet content creation began, there's no denying that their purpose becomes more and more relevant with each successful show.
This year's awards will be hosted by comedian and actor, Nick Offerman, who is perhaps most well-known for his role as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, and will surely leave no stone unturned when it comes to making Webby fans not only appreciate their favorite content creators, but also probably laugh... a lot.
Can't make it to the show? Don't worry -- you can watch the celebration starting on the 17th on WebbyAwards.com.
Fans might expect to see winners Lena Dunham, John Oliver and, it's rumored even Kanye West (who was named artist of the year).
We spoke with David-Michel Davies, President and Executive Director of The Webby Awards, about everything the awards show has to offer. Check it out below:
What is your favorite thing about The Webby Awards?
Spending a few days with the incredible people who make great Internet is by far the best part of The Webby Awards. We have people coming from all over the world -- writers, technologists, artists, film directors -- the list goes on. It's a real privilege to meet them all. And, of course, I love our rule that each winner is only allowed to give a 5-word acceptance speech. It's a hallmark of the Webby Awards and something I look forward to every year.
Do you have an all-time favorite Webby Awards moment from years past?
Oh, the whole history of the Webbys is an all-time favorite memory. In the early years, I was obsessed with Napster and when it won the Webby for Music, I remember standing side-stage and watching its founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker give their 5-word speech and being completely mesmerized. At the time, I was probably around 23 years old and up until that point, if you wanted to hear new music, you had to get yourself to a Tower Records and shell out $15 for a single CD. And then Napster came onto the scene, and you could miraculously listen to almost anything right on your computer, which was a pretty crazy concept at the time. Today it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was revolutionary then. The fact that we're able to enjoy all this great music on the Internet now -- all without breaking any laws -- is a testament to how much things have evolved since then.
And, of course I will never forget Prince performing at The Webby Awards. Who could forget his 5-word speech "Everything you think, is true."
What goes into producing and throwing an event as massive as The Webbys?
What matters most are the people on the team and the relationships and camaraderie we've developed over the years. Everything flows from there. If those bonds are strong and honest, it makes the work fun and funny and rewarding and you feel like you can do almost anything together. What you create as a team is real and can be felt by all the people who attend.
What do you hope attendees and nominees take away from the event?
We want them to have a wonderful night that celebrates the awesomeness of the Internet, the special culture that exists, the inside jokes and the dorky memes, and all the great work they've dreamed up over the course of the year. It should feel like a dinner with the Internet. At least that's what we're going for.
Why do you think it's important to have awards shows like The Webby Awards?
I think it's important to celebrate excellence. It's carving out space in culture to recognize how much better our lives are because there are creative people with high standards who work hard to make great things, take risks and share their ideas with the world. This year three people who we've awarded Lifetime Achievement Webby Awards to passed away -- David Bowie, Prince and email inventor Ray Tomlinson. Think about what a significant impact on the world they each made, and how much happier every day was for so many people because of their contributions. I think recognizing those kinds of contributions whenever we can is important because it helps to inspire others.
What's your proudest moment from working with The Webby Awards?
A few years ago we honored Steve Wilhite, the inventor of the GIF. Steve created an image format more than two decades ago that still, today, is wildly popular and the basis for so much expression and communication and a lot of happiness and humor. But almost no one knew who Steve was or what he had done. So when David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, one of the most active communities of GIF creators on the Internet, presented Steve with the Webby that year, it was really special. It was a moment of pure love and respect for his work and everyone in the room that night felt it.
How has The Webby Awards changed and evolved since its founding in 1996?
The biggest change really has been how the Internet has changed in that time. Back when we started, there were only 70 million people online and it took 10 minutes to download a photo. Also there was a box on your desk called a modem that made weird sounds if you wanted to "go online." Today the Internet is in your head, or at least it will be soon. That's been the biggest change in what we do.
What are you most excited for about this year's show?
At the first Webby Awards in 1997, TheOnion.com was nominated in the Weird category. This year we will be honoring TheOnion.com with a Lifetime Achievement Award. There aren't many things on the Internet that have endured that long. I'm excited to hear their 5-word speech!