Editor’s note: Social networking site Facebook and a host of other Internet-related startups reaped awards Friday night at the first “Crunchies” awards put on by VentureBeat. Winners were selected in online polls. The “Crunchies” winners received a plastic statue of a monkey wearing a cap and poised to strike various devices with a bone. The statues were adopted from a scene in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
SILICON VALLEY, Calif — Here are the winners in the “Crunchies,” in no particular order:
Best technology innovation / achievement: Earthmine is building a geospatial platform that will provide a database of in-depth 3D data into Web map applications so that you can drive virtually around major metropolitan areas – it lets you do things like measure sizes of buildings, tag points of interests and get bird’s-eye views of favorite places.
Best bootstrapped start-up: Techmeme constantly aggregates top tech-news stories from across the Web and displays them in a running stream on its site, with the most popular story of the moment at the top of the page. Beneath each story on the site, you can see the most interesting related commentary from other sources. Since it launched, Techmeme has gotten tech reporters and bloggers around the world addicted. Some, like myself, check it more than once, every waking hour.
Best new gadget / device: Apple’s iPhone is most beautifully designed phone ever, with a large screen that lets you easily browse mobile Web pages. It is credited with alerting Americans to the fact that mobile Internet usage is a fun and even useful experience.
Best business model: Zazzle gives users a way to personalize products like apparel, posters, U.S. Postage and greeting cards online, then sell them. Its model genius is using online affiliate stores.
Best design: SmugMug is an online photo-sharing site, with the features you’d expect with a modern photo site, including tagging and integration with maps and other bells and whistles. Setting it apart from literally hundreds of other photo sites is its elegant design.
Best enterprise start-up: Zoho is a prolific creator of business-focused software applications, including word processing, spreadsheets and much, much more.
Best consumer start-up: Meebo lets you IM with people on AOL, GTalk, MSN and Yahoo, all from its own site. It introduced a new feature last May that lets you embed a Meebo group chat on sites across the Web. Traffic has ballooned as a result. While the company’s home site has 7 million monthly users, Meebo room widgets have nearly 20 million.
Best mobile start-up: Twitter has caught fire in early-adopter circles around the world as the way to constantly see what your friends are up to. You’re given 140 text characters to answer the question “what are you doing” Note: I’ve been scratching my head about the point of Twitter for many months. The past few weeks, though, I started following what others were saying on it, posting my own messages — and all of a sudden, I’m addicted.
Best international start-up: Netvibes’ personalized Web pages have proven to be popular with many, many people, and Netvibes has led the way. It lets you add RSS feeds from news sites, the latest e-mails from your e-mail accounts, updates from your calendar and much more.
Best user-generated content: Digg is the social news site everyone has heard of. The site lets anyone contribute links to articles and other information around the Web, then every so-called Digger gets to vote on it. As many Web publishers have discovered, if your story gets popular on Digg, the ensuing traffic (of mostly, it seems, geeky teenage guys) might take down your site.
Best video site: Hulu is an online video site that features professionally produced videos from major broadcasters. Before it launched this fall, most of us in Silicon Valley were skeptical that it could get off the ground in the face of competition from YouTube and the many other online video sites out there. Its clean interface — and more importantly, great videos — have won a great many fans.
Best clean tech start-up: Tesla Motors has been developing some of the most exciting electric cars around. Especially the Roadster, that can go from 0 mph to 60 mph in about 5 seconds
Best use of viral marketing: StumbleUpon directs you to sites that you’re likely interested in based on what other people have chosen who have shown tastes similar to yours.
Best time sink site: Kongregate. Online gaming is big, gaining millions of fans of all ages and both genders — and Kongregate is part of that bigness. The site features games from independent developers and lets anybody play games for free and vote on them.
Most likely to make the world a better place: DonorsChoose.org was pioneered by teachers at a Bronx public high school frustrated by the lack of materials. They connected teachers online with individuals who want to donate.
Most likely to succeed: WordPress wasn’t the first blogging platform, but it charged onto the scene by letting anybody download and install an open-source version of its code. It has since added premium features, like a great spam filter, and is growing fast. See below for more.
Best start-up founder: Mark Zuckerberg. The 23-year-old entrepreneur started a social network for college campuses back when he was a sophomore at Harvard — and you know the rest of the story. Zuckerberg and Co. have redefined what social networking is. Many other social networks started and got big before Facebook, but this company understands the secret sauce of human behavior. It has managed to create a site where people use their real names and pictures to engage in social interaction.
Best start-up CEO: Toni Schneider is a successful entrepreneur as well as investor at True Ventures. Schneider has taken WordPress from a fast-growing, open-source project to a large, profitable and still-growing business that’s still focused on making blogging something anybody can do for free.
Best new start-up of 2007: iMedix hopes to revolutionize the U.S. medical system by tapping the bottom-up information-sharing capabilities of the community. iMedix draws users into a community where they can share information about their medical conditions. It offers both health-related search and patient-community building.
Best overall: Facebook — see “Best start-up founder.” The social network is rabidly popular with its core audience of college students in the U.S. and has gone on to win the hearts of high school students, office workers and other people of all ages, around the world.
Here’s an abbreviated list of, dare I say it, revolutionary new features the company has introduced: Closed networks of only people who are physically near you, news feeds and a developer platform so third parties can run their applications within and make money from them. Other social networks have since basically copied the news feed and application concept.