Between grumbles in Austin that the 2012 South By Southwest Interactive festival had come and gone without any standout debuts or surprises, there was a steady drumbeat of curiosity, inspiration and support being expressed for AmericansElect.org – an organization and website devoted to popularizing a third-party candidate in this November’s presidential election. (See TIME’s complete coverage of SXSW 2012)
Late Tuesday night, during the annual awards ceremony, this popular platform was bestowed with one of the festival’s top honors – the “People’s Choice Award,” which last year went to Groupon. Within minutes, Americans Elect had sent out a triumphant press release, moving to capitalize on this trendy prize: “This award confirms that Americans Elect is not just a growing political movement, but also a groundbreaking and innovative tech startup,” said Joshua Levine, the organization’s chief technology officer. “We’re honored to be recognized alongside so many other companies at SXSW using technology to empower people and improve the world around us.”
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The primary agenda of the AmericansElect.org website is the hosting of the first online presidential primary this spring, which will be open to any registered voter in the country. Every candidate will make a pitch to the Americans Elect delegates, now numbering at more than 400,000, who will in turn choose and advocate for a presidential ticket that will appear opposite President Obama and the chosen GOP candidate on ballots this November. The countdown is already well underway; the first Americans Elect caucuses are set to begin in roughly 50 days.
Beyond the popularity of the raw concept, the numbers show that Americans Elect has thrived in its execution: There have already been more than 2.8 million visitors to the AmericansElect.org site since its launch in July, all logging more than 32 million page views.
Other top awards of the evening went to Pinterest (Breakout Digital Trend), the pinboard-styled social photo sharing website that has shown an explosive growth in users over the past year (see TIME’s 16 Pinterest boards), and Take This Lollipop (Best of Show), the creepy viral Facebook app that employs users’ Facebook data and photos to create a brief online horror film starring themselves. The message behind Take This Lollipop: Be careful about how much information you’re sharing with the world. You never know who might be watching.
The 15th annual SXSW Interactive Awards dished out more than a dozen prizes Tuesday – to categories as wide-ranging as Activism (SlaveryFootprint.org), Social Media (Storify) and Music (Obsessed With Sound). To see the full rundown of the honored sites, programs and concepts, visit the South By Southwest website.
Steven James Snyder is a Senior Editor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @thesnydes. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page, on Twitter at @TIME and on TIME’s Tumblr.