On Thursday, up to 3,000 people will converge on San Francisco's classy Nob Hill district to see and be seen at the fifth annual Webby Awards. If we really have to have an Oscars-style awards ceremony for the Internet, the Webby Awards is probably the best thing we are likely to get. Unlike its schmoozy, self-congratulatory movie-industry inspiration, the Webbys has succeeded by styling itself as a defiantly tongue-in-cheek evening of satire. Considering the range and depth of on-line content today, an Internet awards ceremony could easily become even more unbearably long than the Oscars. Covering 27 categories, the organisers keep the event short and sweet by limiting acceptance speeches to just five words. The Webbys also allows a certain amount of democratic representation, with each category giving two awards - one from the official judges, and one from visitors who voted at the official Webbys site, www.webbyawards . com. This year's Webby Awards will also be broadcast on streaming video on Yahoo!'s entertainment site, at www.entertainment.ya hoo.com. So what gives the Webbys its quasi-official status? Money and marketing. Since launching the awards five years ago, founder Tiffany Shlain has proven herself as a guru of finance and marketing. Besides raising the requisite truckloads of sponsorship and venture capital, her Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences has managed to draw judges such as David Bowie, Patrick Stewart, Esther Dyson, Matt Groening and Laurie Anderson. Another difference between this and the Oscars is that the Oscars is preceded by months of studio hype and a series of award shows that closely match many of the Oscars results. With the Webbys, you just do not know what is going to win. However, I'll go out on a limb and predict that: Napster has to win the people's vote in the music category; Island.com deserves to win the finance prize; ICQ ought to take the community prize - though Slashdot is a good competitor; Comedy Central deserves the humour prize, though so, too, does Timothy Sweeney's Internet Tendency at www.mc sweeneys.net; Foxsports.com should be in with a chance for the sports prize; and, if there is any justice in the world, the Hunger Site, at www.hungersite.com , should pick up the activism award. Whoever wins, the Webbys is an excellent introduction to some of the best sites on the Internet. The awards ceremony will begin at 6pm on Thursday, May 11, San Francisco time, which by my reckoning should be about 9am on Friday, Hong Kong time. Neil Taylor is the technology producer of SCMP.com. His e-mail address is neiltayloratscmp.com.