After months of voting, some of New Zealand's most popular websites were honoured at the annual People's Choice NetGuide Web Awards in Auckland last night.
More than 31,000 people - three times last year's count - voted online for their favourite websites in 19 categories from the best parenting site to the best blog.
The purpose of the awards was two-fold, said Nigel Horrocks, editor of NetGuide magazine.
"It's really first of all to get a snapshot of the sites that people aren't just going to but are actually finding useful and user-friendly, and also it's to reward those sites that are doing good things on the web."
Auction website Trade Me scooped an unprecedented three awards - Best Trading Site, Best Online Shopping Site and the top prize of Site of the Year.
"Trade Me's dominance in the trading and online shopping categories was inescapable," Horrocks said.
"The Site of the Year award further recognises that this website has become something of a cultural icon - 'Trade Me' is part of the Kiwi vernacular."
However, cyberspace can be a harsh marketplace where customer loyalty is hard to attain and easy to lose, he added.
"The internet is a very cruel place for business, for one thing you have to keep innovating and Trade Me's been very good at that."
One site hoping to exploit the fickle nature of internet loyalty is new kid on the block Zillion - an auction website that won Best New Site.
Co-founder Dylan Bland said the secret of success was to always look forward and accept that the current landscape is certain to change.
"What we're probably most excited about is that [the award] sort of validates that the so-called little guy can actually compete with the bigger players on the internet, perhaps more so than in a real world environment," Bland said.
Aucklander Bland, 24, had himself been a user of rival websites Trade Me and eBay before he spotted what he thought was gap in the market.
Zillion aims to provide tools to help traders wanting to sell potentially hundreds of items, manage their listings, he said. Since the site was launched last July it has signed up about 15,000 members, Bland said.
The ninth annual awards also recognised publicaddress.net in one of the most popular categories of Best Blog, stuff.co.nz as Best Media Site, and gameplanet.co.nz as the Best Games-related site. The award for Best Sports and Recreation Site was unsurprisingly scooped up by allblacks.com.
This year's winners reflected a trend whereby people were no longer satisfied to merely browse websites but wanted to interact with them, including the growth of online communities, Horrocks said.
" I suppose auction sites that do it well are one example of a community that is formed where people go online they feel they are part of that website, they feel they are interacting on that website."
The days of a website being used merely as a glossy publicity brochure were passing - a fact some businesses were slow to appreciate, he said.
"We're living now in an age where, especially with broadband, people [are] actually expecting more than that, they are expecting things to move on the website ... videos, or forums or some form with which they can actually interact."
Broadband was having a big impact globally on this trend towards online interaction, Horrocks said.
"I think that's one of the reasons that we could be left way behind in this country if we don't really fully embrace the broadband thing," he said.
The Best ISP award went to ihug, which NetGuide said got the thumbs up across a range of criteria including quality of service, reliability and price.
"ISPs are marketing themselves on every aspect of their business, but customer service was where the battle was won and lost, " Horrocks said. "Voter's comments showed that users prized a responsive provider and ihug and Inspire [winner of Best Regional ISP] are getting it right."
When it came to human interaction the winner of Best Lifestyle Site, nzdating.com, perhaps achieved more than most.
"Users are having a love affair with NZDating in more ways than one," Horrocks said.
2006 People's Choice Netguide Web Awards
Site of the Year: Trade Me
Best Blog: Public Address
Best High-Speed Internet Site: Xtra
Best Entertainment Site: Biggie
Best Parenting Site: Treasures
Best Financial Services Site: ASB
Best Games-Related Site: Gameplanet
Best Home Page: NZ City
Best Lifestyle Site: NZ Dating
Best Online Shopping Site: Trade Me
Best Media Site: Stuff
Best New Site or Relaunch: Zillion
Best Government or Community Site: Inland Revenue
Best Travel Site: House of Travel
Best Sports and Recreation Site: All Blacks
Best Trading Site: Trade Me
Best Youth Site: Radio Chick
Best ISP (Internet Service Provider): ihug
Best Regional ISP: Inspire