Web Honors Go to Al Gore and Others

ByABC News

June 10, 2005 &#151 -- In this week's "Cybershake," we take a look at some of the Internet luminaries who got a Webby, the Net's version of an Oscar, and how they said "thanks" -- in five words or less. Plus, we take note of how computer technology is being shunned in one professional sport.

Nine years ago, the Internet was still pretty much in its infancy. But a lot of people -- both well-known names and unsung heroes -- have helped shaped the Web to what it is today.

And at the ninth annual international Webby Awards in New York this week, one particular Net figure finally received his due: Former Vice President Al Gore.

Officials at the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences honored Gore with the Webby Lifetime Achievement award in recognition of his pivotal role in the development of the Internet over the last 30 years.

Gore had been skewered during the 2000 presidential campaign for his remarks that suggested he was the Net's creator. But Vinton Cerf, one of the scientists who helped craft the actual Internet architecture, acknowledged that Gore was responsible for crafting important legislation and lending needed political support for "the information superhighway."

The former vice president accepted the award from Cerf. But like other Webby winners, the usually talkative Gore had to limit his acceptance speech to five words or less.

Thus, remarked Gore, "Please don't recount this vote."

Tiffany Shlain, founder and chairperson of the Webby Awards, said the recipients of the award reflect how "the Web has become the driving force shaping popular culture, the marketplace and society as a whole."

"The Web is being created and accessed from everywhere so it's more exciting now in some ways," said Shlain. As such, "We doubled the number of [award] categories [this year] so it really reflects everything that's on line."

For example, the recipient of the Webby for Person of the Year went to Craig Newmark, founder and operator of CraigsList.com. Based in San Francisco, the site has become a virtual flea market that appeals to everyone across the United States.

"We have many categories including jobs, apartments, dating, for sale, [and] people just talking about community or political issues," said Newmark.

And the Webbys didn't go to just well-known sites. Nineteen-year old Tyler Morgan from Amarillo, Texas, received a Webby for Best Personal Web site. His RTM86.com site, which Morgan built in his bedroom, garnered just a few dozen "hits" per day.

But when search engine giant Yahoo chose it as a "site of the Day," the number of visitors skyrocketed. In May, RTM86.com received more than 1.2 million clicks.

The appeal of his site? Says Morgan: "Everything's a picture. There's no text or anything on my page. It's all [just] a picture."

The scarcity of words on his site has appealed to thousands of Web surfers -- many of whom offered to help fund the college student's trip to the Webby Awards event. Morgan says visitors donated approximately $1,700 toward his travel expenses to New York. Once there, his skill at using words judiciously seemed to help.

"Desperate. Need money for college," said Morgan at his acceptance speech.

Shlain said recipients such as Morgan help underscore how the Webby Awards are truly an egalitarian event -- just like the Web itself.

"The Web is the great equalizer," said Shlain, who reminds Web surfers it's not too early to get in on next year's awards.

More information about the Webbys can be found, naturally, at the organization's Web site: www.webbyawards.com.

-- Larry Jacobs, ABC News

Computer technology is everywhere -- even in places where you'd never expect. In cars, for example, dozens of specialized microchips and computer codes help to operate and control the car more efficiently and safety. And in motor racing sports, that's seen as both good and bad.

Computer and electronic technology has become firmly embedded in some classes of professional car racing, such as Formula One. Tiny sensors embedded in cars and racetracks, for example, help officials keep accurate lap times and scores. Microchips embedded in engines and transmissions help drivers get the most performance out of their cars -- and keep crews informed about what needs adjusting at pit stops.

But all that technology can cost millions of dollars for racing teams and their sponsors. And that's something the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing group would like to avoid.

"NASCAR consistently and continuously tries to keep technology out of our sport," said two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip. "You know how much it costs to race a Formula One car and how computer-controlled those things are. NASCAR doesn't want to get into that field."

But that doesn't mean technology hasn't made its way into the sport. Like Formula One racing, sensors in the racetrack and cars help track officials monitor racers' speeds and lap times, which aids for more accurate scoring and enhance safety.

"As technology advances, what we've done is created a safer race car to race in," says Kurt Busch, winner of last year's Nextel Cup. "But we still have some of the old mechanics of a regular car."

After all, he says. Fans expect teams to live up to the racing sport's name of "stock" -- as in, just the basics of auto racing.

-- Michael Barr, ABC News

Cybershake is produced for ABC News Radio by Andrea J. Smith.

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