When Louis C.K. released his comedy special "Live at the Beacon Theater" by himself on his website for $5, it was little more than a cautiously optimistic experiment.
Less than two weeks later, it had reaped more than $1 million. Already among the most respected stand-ups in the country, Louis C.K. was suddenly a new media trailblazer, too.
On Tuesday, the Webby Awards announced Louis C.K. is their "person of the year" for setting "a new precedent for distribution." Comedians Aziz Ansari and Jim Gaffigan have since similarly released albums online.
The Webbys, which celebrate Internet achievement, announced the winners of its 16th annual awards on Tuesday. The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which present the awards, shared the winners with The Associated Press shortly before they were to make an official announcement.
The awards spanned the breath of the Internet, from mobile apps like Instagram and Pinterest that have disrupted social media, to entertainers charting new digital ground, like Louis C.K. and Bjork.
Bjork was named artist of the year. Last year, the Icelandic musician released the album "Biophilia" as a multimedia presentation of music and apps.
She was among the special recognitions named by the Webbys, which also cited the photo app Instagram as breakout of the year. It was recently acquired by Facebook for $1 billion.
"It's been a huge year of change," said David-Michel Davies, executive director of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, a group of about 1,000 Web experts and Internet professionals.
Also specially honored were Juliette Lewis and Graydon Sheppard, who share the award for best actress for the viral video "S--- Girls Say." The video, which parodies common expressions, has been watched more than 16.2 million times on YouTube and spawned a viral sensation of countless similar videos. Sheppard, a male comic, appears in drag in the video.
In more than 130 regular categories, the Webbys give two winners per category: an official Webby award and a "people's voice" pick chosen from online votes.
Ferrell, who co-founded the comedy website Funny Or Die, won best individual performance for a video in which he reprised his impression of President George W. Bush, reacting to Osama Bin Laden's death.
The Onion won for best humor website and its video arm, the Onion Network, earned best writing in an online video for its satirical morning TV show video: "How to Get a Guy to Notice You While You're Having Sex With Him."
The pinboard-style website Pinterest won for best social media app, as well as a people's voice award for best functioning visual design. Best music app went to the streaming service Spotify, which Davies said typified "the intersection we're seeing between social and entertainment."
HBO Connect won for best TV website. The New Yorker's website won for best editorial writing.
One new category, people's special achievement for social change, went to Facebook. The award, which was voted for online, honors "important Internet work that played an integral role in advancing and organizing the masses."
The awards will be handed out in a May 21 event at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Patton Oswalt will host the awards, whose winners are famously restricted to five-word acceptance speeches.