Internet stars go glamorous

David Bowie spent less than a minute on stage, the Beastie Boys asked if anyone could fix one of their computers and Manchester United boasted they had given the world David Beckham.

The somewhat surreal occasion was a gala ceremony in New York late on Tuesday for the 11th annual Webby Awards, the "Oscars of the internet", recognising achievement in everything online, from political blogs to advertising.

The awards, billed as the leading international internet gongs, received a record 8 000 entries from more than 60 countries this year and saw prizes in almost 70 categories, making the evening an almost constant stream of speeches.

But one thing that makes the evening stand out from the rest of the year’s award ceremonies is the five-word limit on acceptance speeches – a rule that is rigorously policed by the audience for all except the special award winners.

"I only get five words?" Bowie asked, before continuing: "Shit, that was five. Four more there. That’s three," winding up with: "Two," before rapidly exiting the stage.

The rock legend was picking up a lifetime achievement award for UltraStar, his digital media company, which the Webby organisers recognised for pushing the boundaries of art and technology.

He also runs BowieArt, a website that connects emerging visual artists with collectors, and launched BowieNet, an online community, fan site, blog and store, in 1998.

Hip Hop trio The Beastie Boys took home the artist of the year award for embracing technology by accepting digital MP3 files as a music format and for a recent music video project made up of fans’ footage.

‘Can anyone fix my computer?’

"We love the internet so much. And computers," the band offered in their acceptance speech, before asking: "Can anyone fix my computer?"

Band member Adam Yauch added that he wanted to apologise publicly to Bowie for copying him in on a recent circular e-mail.

The award winners are selected by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 550-member panel including Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, and Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

Satirical newspaper The Onion, picking up two awards in the humour category, got booed for going way beyond the word limit with a two minute rant more reminiscent of some of the less succinct speeches at the Oscars.

Co-founders of video sharing website YouTube, Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, who came up with the idea of posting video clips on a shared website, picked up the Webby person of the year award for their fantastically successful site.

"We owe all our success to you and the YouTube community," they said, adding: "we never thought YouTube would reach so many people."

BBC news and British newspaper The Guardian both used their slots to appeal for the release of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who was abducted in the Gaza Strip in March.

The more than 200 million users of online auction platform eBay also received a lifetime award for "a cultural phenomenon" that had "permanently changed the way people connect, discover and interact with each other".

Some of the more entertaining speeches to make it under the five word limit included a devoted: "Promised I’d mention the missus," and "Thanks mum. Whoever you are," to the more blunt: "Now let’s go get hammered."

But it was the organisers of online community Facebook who summed up the evening for most people in the room, with the neat acceptance speech: "I’m just here for Bowie."

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Internet stars go glamorous