Next month Austin, Texas will fill to the brim with geeks from all around the world gathered to attend the South by Southwest Interactive festival. While smaller than the Music part of SXSW, Interactive is very big and very fun. One part of the event that always goes over our heads, though, is the annual Web Awards. Everyone gathers into a big room and hears a well-known host announce the winners of this Adobe sponsored design contest.

Almost no one has any idea who any of these companies are! It’s pretty strange, so this year ReadWriteWeb decided to dedicate a good chunk of time to finding out. Below you’ll find brief scannable explanations of who and what is behind the 80+ companies and projects that have been named as finalists for the awards.

There are more than 80 companies or projects selected as finalists in 18 different categories, from Activism to CSS to Technical Achievement. These sites are being judged on the basis of their design.

This year the award ceremony will be hosted by The Onion’s Baratunde Thurston. Baratunde is a must-know dude and says about the Web Awards finalists: “I look forward to making one of the companies in each category very happy.”

Don’t forget, too, that you can vote for the Peoples’ Choice winner in each of these categories.

The bulk of the research below was done by ReadWriteWeb Research Intern Nisha Chittal, who will also be at SXSW – so friend her up on Twitter!

We hope to see you in Austin, we’re really looking forward to it! If you are going too, you might enjoy attending the Monday morning panel Beyond Aggregation – Finding the Web’s Best Content. I’ll be on that one, along with Techmeme co-founder Gabe Rivera, PostRank community manager Melanie Baker, Micah Baldwin, Biz Dev VP at Lijit and ultra-early-adopter Louis Gray.

Without further ado, here’s the Web Awards Finalists!

Activism

Cliff Bar 2 Mile Challenge

The Cliff Bar company encourages bike riding with a Flash site that lets you build or choose between custom bike and gear packages, then tells you where you can buy it all. Track your bike travel and reduce climate impact. Built by San Francisco’s Cobra Creative.
On Twitter: 2MileChallenge

IAmSecond

Plano, Texas based e3 Partners Ministry gathered a collection of famous and everyday people offering video commentary about why they put their religious faith first in their lives.
On Twitter: IamSecond

Just in Queso

Just in Queso is a charitable, not-for-profit foundation that provides funds and resources for those in need. The company believes that tragedy rarely gives warning, so they provide funds to those in need after emergencies. They raise funds by selling Just in Queso Hot Sauce, and 100% of all proceeds from every sale go back to communities in the form of aid and donations.

Sunny Side

Run by The Truth campaign, this website aims to provide a satiric look at the truth and the unhealthy side of tobacco and cigarettes.

Tweet Congress

Tweet Congress is a website that allows you to search by location and find out if your Congressman or Senator is on Twitter – and if they aren’t, sign a petition asking them to join Twitter.

On Twitter: TweetCongress


Amusement

CrappyCat

CrappyCat is an interactive game where a cat traverses through a gothic backdrop and fights monsters using the power of alcohol.

Addictionary

Addictionary is a website for word lovers that allows people to play with words. Share new and amusing words and words-of-the-day, create new words, and participate in word challenges.

On Twitter: Addictionary

GirlGamer.com

GirlGamer is a community, digital magazine, and video game review site for

female gamers. It is currently in private beta.
On Twitter: GirlGamer

Pixton

Pixton is a website where people all over the world create, share, and remix comics without having to draw. According to their exhibitor profile, they’ll be premiering the world’s first remixable animated comics at SXSW.
On Twitter: Pixton

UPS Regifter

UPS Regifter is a service that allows to to re-gift when you receive a gift you don’t like — by taking a picture of your ridiculous gift, uploading it, and

sending it to friends.


Art

StreetArtLocator

Street Art Locator is an interactive website featuring a large map of the world that allows you to locate places where you can find cool new street art — anywhere in the world.

Forward Thinking Museum

The Forward Thinking Museum is an interactive virtual museum that allows visitors to study key issues of the future such as nuclear weapons and global warming.

Remembering Bogle Chandler

Remembering Bogle Chandler is a website combining sounds, images, and text that recreates eyewitness accounts of the tragic and mysterious deaths of Margaret Chandler and Gib Bogle in 1963 in Australia.

The Served

The Served is a website promoting the latest in creative works, with a stream of new projects in fashion, industrial design, photography, motion graphics, and typography

Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far

This website is a community-based project where readers contribute what they have learned in life so far through words, videos, photography, and design.


Blog

The Big Picture

The Big Picture is a Boston news blog told through photographs of the city’s recent news and events each day.

Bygone Bureau

Bygone Bureau is a blog of travel writing and cultural criticism that updates three times a week. It describes itself as a “journal of modern thought.”

Dumb As a Blog

Dumb as a Blog is a blog sharing tidbits of the dumb stuff people to do every day.

OneRiot.com

OneRiot is a social search engine that allows you to search information on the internet, but prioritizes it according to its popularity in the OneRiot community.

Postcards from My Momma
Postcards from my Momma is a blog that asks readers to share their funniest and most interesting correspondences with their mothers.


Business

CNN Shirt

CNN Shirt is an interactive website that allows you to scan the day’s top headlines, pick one, and order a customized t-shirt with your CNN headline of choice.

Jasmax

Jasmax is an architecture firm.

Lowe’s “Welcome Back Spring”

This website is an interactive website getting Lowe’s shoppers excited about welcoming back spring by allowing them to explore people’s gardens and yards and pick out Lowe’s products that they like as well as gain gardening tips and advice.

Modernista!

Modernista is a creative advertising firm whose website allows you to “view Modernista! through the eyes of the web.” It is very hard to describe and kind of disturbing.

On Twitter: Modernista

Zeus Jones Gift Site

This website is an interactive guide that helps you pick a gift for anyone in your life by inputting your criteria: budget, gender, age/maturity, relationship, and more. Created by Zeus Jones Marketing Firm.


CSS

Eden Sessions

This interactive website, home to the band The Eden Project, promotes the Eden Sessions — the Eden project’s series of one-day summer music festivals. Website designed by Richard Quick Designs.

Trevor Exter

This website is the homepage to musician Trevor Exter. Designed by This Design Studio.

Mint.com

Mint.com is a popular web-based financial software that allows people to organize their finances, create budgets, and track spending.
On Twitter: Mintdotcom

Noisefreak.com

Noisefreak is an audio production company that does commercials, promos, and

radio production.

ProjectMiso

ProjectMiso is interactive studio that designs and develops interactive media and custom applications. Their clients include Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Pfizer USP, and the NYC Teaching Fellows.


Classic


ArsTechnica

Ars Technica is a website dedicated to tech industry news and analysis, reviews, reporting, and commentary.

On Twitter: Arstechnica

Flickr

Flickr is a photo-sharing website and community. Users can upload and share photos with friends, participate in the “Creative Commons,” explore photography from around the world, and more.

Instructables

Instructables is a how-to website where users document what they do and how they do it, using pictures, video, audio, and text. Popular projects are then featured for other users to learn from.

On Twitter: Instructables

Picnik

Picnik is a web-based free photo editor that lets users upload their photos and creatively edit them with their photo editing tools.

On Twitter: Picnik

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon is a social bookmarking site that allows users to submit and share what they’re reading and enjoying right now, and vote on what content is most popular. It uses a recommendation algorithm to create a seemingly serendipitous experience wandering through related content.

Delicious 2.0

Delicious is a social bookmarking site where users bookmark links they like, tag them, and share them with each other. It’s a Yahoo! property and underwent a dramatic redesign last year.


Community


Lost Zombies

Lost Zombies is a community-generated zombie documentary. The website aims to collect 10,000 user-submitted photos and 1,000 user-submitted videos about zombies, which will be put together in a documentary.

On Twitter:LostZombies

Fluther

Fluther is a community website where users ask questions, get answers, and discuss them with the rest of the community. It is a community of people and ordinary experts sharing knowledge.

On Twitter: Fluther

Protagonize

Protagonize is a fiction writing community website where users share, discuss, collaborate on, and learn from fiction stories that they have created. Designed by Taunt Media.

On Twitter: Protagonize

Trusera

Trusera is an online community centered around health. Users submit health questions for discussion, get answers from each other, get personalized health advice, and connect with users with similar health experiences.

On Twitter: Trusera_health


Education

The Cycle

The Cycle is an interactive video website that features short videos that simulate how the recycling process really works, behind the scenes.

Discovery Earth Live

Created by the Discovery Channel, this interactive website allows users to learn about the earth’s ocean’s and tides.

From Ellis Island to OrchardStreet

This website from the Tenement Museum takes visitors through a classic-film style tour of life as an immigrant in early 20th-century America, then allows you to create your own immigrant story.

HowStuffWorks

Here you can learn exactly what the title says — how stuff works. The website features a plethora of articles about almost every topic under the sun, and explanations of how things really work behind the scenes.

OneHen

This Flash website uses stories, pictures, and videos to teach children all about microfinance and how it works. There are also sections for parents and educators to learn about microfinance and how they might spread awareness, donate, or get otherwise involved.

Experimental

Foul Owl Karaoke

Foul Owl is a interactive music visualization tool that uses animals and cartoon creatures.

Popego

Popego is a website that helps filter content to see what videos, music, and content match the user’s interested based on what interests they list and what their friends are enjoying.

On Twitter: Popego

Sweemo

Sweemo is an online auction and retail service that allows users to buy and sell experiences, knowledge, or skills instead of products — think Ebay for experiences.

On Twitter: Sweemodotcom

Ten Thousand Cents

Ten Thousand Cents is a piece of artwork; it is a digital representation of a one-hundred dollar bill, created by 10,000 Amazon mechanical Turk workers who were each paid one cent for their task. Workers from 51 countries were involved in the project. The final project shows a video piece with all 10,000 parts being drawn simultaneously.

We Tell Stories

We Tell Stories is a project launched by publisher Penguin UK, where six authors

will write six stories each over the course of six weeks — stories that relate to the immediacy and connectivity of the internet today. There is also a mysterious “secret” seventh story involved in the project, which will give readers the chance to win prizes from Penguin UK.

Film/ Television

Flight of the Conchords Lip Dub

In this HBO TV show website, users download music videos, videotape themselves

lip-synching the songs, and then upload them to the website for everyone to watch. The contest is now over, and a final winner is going to be chosen soon.

The Flight of the Conchords is not on Twitter, which is a shame.

Hulu

Hulu is an online video service offering free movies and TV shows from major

companies such as NBC, FOX, MGM Studios, Sony, and Warner Brothers. There are

over 1000 primetime TV shows available.

On Twitter: HuluDotCom

In Plain Sight: WITSEC Confidential

This website was created for USA Network’s TV show “In Plain Sight,” a show about the Federal Witness Protection Program. The website allows users to play an interactive game where they protect witnesses from criminals and find clues to solve crimes.

Jinni

Jinni is a movie search-and-recommendation engine that allows users to search the internet for movies that match their interests. It allows users to search for films based on specific fetures like plot elements, genre, characters, etc. It is currently in private beta.

On Twitter: JinniMedia

The Secret Location

The Secret Location is an interactive media company specializing in entertainment properties combining interactive, film, animation, and motion design. Their website is set up in the form of an interactive video about a mysterious secret location.

Games

Adult Swim Games

This website, home of Adult Swim TV shows, features a host of interactive games and episodes of your favorite Adult Swim shows.

Globulos

Globulos is a French multi-player flash game featuring little “globs” as the main characters. It was launched in 2003 and is available on the web, on mobile and the Nintendo DS.

PMOG

PMOG stands for the “Passively Multiplayer Online Game.” Users install the game into their browser and it turns the whole internet into one game as you go from website to website.

On Twitter: Pmog

PlayCrafter

PlayCrafter features an online game maker that allows the user to create their own flash game and then share it with their friends. They can also enter contests to see who can create the best game.

Why So Serious? The Dark Kight Alternate Reality Game

This game is based off of the hit 2008 film “The Dark Knight.” The game allows you to live in the world of the Dark Night, play out events, and create your own alternate reality.

Mobile

AP Mobile News Network

The AP Mobile News Network (MNN) allows you to get all news, all the time, on your mobile phone through a special application for iPhones, Blackberrys, and other smartphones. It’s powered by Transpera.

On Twitter: AP_Mobile

Brightkite

Brightkite is a location-based social networking website where you input your location from your phone and see who else is nearby. You can see our extensive coverage of Brightkite here.

On Twitter: Brightkite

Gigotron

Gigotron is a location-based iPhone app that helps you locate where local bands are playing live shows wherever you are. Seth Jacobs of video production shop EQAL (makers of Lonelygirl15) calls Gigotron on of his “top 5 iPhone geek apps.”

On Twitter: Gigotron

Pikchur

Pikchur is a photo-based website that lets you take pictures and share them on the go through your phone and a host of social networking applications. The company also offers an image preview script for Twitter.

On Twitter:Pikchur

Please Fix the iPhone

This website is a place where iPhone users list their complaints that they want to see fixed about the iPhone, and then users vote for their most favorite complaints in hopes that Apple will fix them. It’s fun to see the many things people say about the site on Twitter.

Motion Graphics

ADE Creative Studios

ADE is a creative studio specializing in graphic design, motion design, 3-d animation, and more. They have a very busy website.

Corona Beach

The Corona Beach lets you take a break from your day on an interactive beach with a (interactive) Corona. It was the work of New York’s Big Spaceship and Chicago’s Cramer-Krasselt.

NVIDIA Speak Visual

NVIDIA is a company that produces high-quality graphics processors for computers. Their website features a gallery of stories from customers who have NVIDIA graphics processors.

Synergy – ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corporation

ThysenKrupp is an elevator company and Synergy is their first global elevator system. It comes with a model design that can be custom-fit to meet local codes around the globe.

What’s Your Lighting Style?

This website, from GE, allows users to determine the lighting style that’s right for them, with a set of lighting tips, videos, an interactive quiz to find your lighting style, and information about all of GE’s lightbulb products.

Music

Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman is a folk music artist, who has just released the new album “Our bright future.” She is a multi-platinum and four-time Grammy award-winning artist.

The Finetune Family

The Finetune Family is an online music service that allows users to discover new music, create playlists, and organize favorite artists and albums. Users can get Finetune online, on their desktop, embedded in their browser, on their mobile device, in a Facebook app, on their Wii, on their TV, or in a widget.

Soundcloud

Soundcloud is a tool for artists, record labels, and other music professionals to easily send, receive, and distribute music files online. We wrote a well received review of Soundcloud here in December.

On Twitter: Soundcloud

Spiritualized Harmonies

Spiritualized Harmonies is the high-tech new website of the band Spiritualized, a psychedelic/experimental/rock band.Their latest album, now out, is called “Songs in A&E.”

James Zabiela

James Zabiela is a recording artist specializing in house, breakbeat, and techno music. His new album, “Renaissance: the Masters Series,” will be out February 23.

Personal Portfolio

Ali Felski

Ali Felski is a Washington, DC-based independent graphic designer. She previously worked for the federal government and now works for the Sunlight Foundation, promoting transparency in government. The Sunlight Foundation’s work is fabulous. See our reviews of their sites OpenCongress and Capitol Words.

On Twitter: Felskia

Pericycle

Pericycle is the personal portfolio of designer Gabriel Bach, housing a collection of his work in print, websites, postcards, flyers, and more.

Eric Piasecki Stocksearch

Eric Piasecki is a travel photographer whose “Stocksearch” website lets you easily search through all his work, save and download images, and order prints.

Revyver

Revyver is a two-person web design company run by an engaged couple. Revyver

specializes in designing web applications and games. Revyver was acquired in

November 2008 by SpectrumDNA.

On Twitter: Revyver

Lynn Marie Smith

Lynn Marie Smith is an author, speaker, and activist who is a former ecstasy addict and now speaks out about addiction. She uses her website to communicate with teens, young adults, and parents around the world about drug addiction, and will be turning these communications into a book.

Student

Business of Detention

Business of Detention is an online publication made by journalism students that covers the “business of detention” — privatized immigration detention in the United States.

Michael Dick

This website is the homepage and portfolio of web designer and programmer Michael Dick.

On Twitter: MichaelDick

Modernity Spirit of Experimentation

Modernity Spirit of Experimentation is a website showcasing innovate designs in furniture, glass, ceramic, and accessory design, by various designers.

Think Artificial

Think Artificial is the blog of a computer science student in Iceland, where he writes about the “science of artificial” — the world of technology from a semi-technical perspective.

Weekend Pictures

Weekend Pictures is a project that explores the topics of the internet, user-generated content, and privacy. It aims to help visitors maximize their use of the internet as a creative outlet while safeguarding privacy.

Technical Achievement

Absolut Machines

Absolut Machines, created by Absolut, aims to explore the intersection of art and technology by inviting renowned designers and engineers to create machines that website visitors could then interact with over the internet. Make Magazine’s Phillip Torrone took a tour and got some great photos and video of the project last February.

Aviary

Aviary is a multi-tool suite of collaborative image editing web applications. We’ve written about Aviary a number of times, most recently in October.

jQuery UI ThemeRoller

This website from jQuery allows you to “roll” your own website theme using a simple theme-creator tool. Input your criteria for colors, fonts, design, content, and more.

On Twitter: JQueryUI

SkyDeck

Skydeck is an application that lets you see your cell phone, online. It displays all your calls, texts, voicemails, call notes, connections, and more, and then lets you search, read, and respond to communications online. We reviewed Skydeck here last month.

On Twitter: Skydeck

Tarpipe

Tarpipe is an online tool that streamlines all your social media communications, and then lets you publish content across the web from one easy place. Check out our coverage of Tarpipe here.

On Twitter: Tarpipe