The Webbys are coming.

The fifth annual Webby Awards, given to the best sites on the Web, are scheduled to be announced July 18.

These awards, which organizers like to describe as the "Oscars of the Internet," are delivered at a far-out awards ceremony in San Francisco. The event, of course, will be Webcast live and perhaps this year even televised.

As always, a big part of the Webby fun is seeing how winners deliver their acceptance speeches, which are limited to-get this-five words or less.

It should also be fun this year to see how the nominees deal with whether they'll even exist at this time next year. After all, the online world has changed quite a bit since last year's extravaganza.

But you don't have to wait until July to start celebrating the Webbys. The nominees-five sites in each of 27 different categories-are already posted on the Webby Awards site at www.webbyawards.com.

For you serious Web surfers, now is a good time to start working your way through the list.

If you visit them all, you'll tour 135 Web sites. That's a lot of virtual "siteseeing," but you can comfort yourself with the idea that you're checking out some of the best the Web has to offer.

This kind of Web surfing, jumping from site to site just to check out what's cool, has gone out of fashion in recent years. The Web's simply too big now to simply throw yourself out there and see what hits you. Sort of like trying to take a day hike through the Rocky Mountains, you're more likely to get lost than to have a good time.

Many Web users have retreated to the familiar. Huge numbers now spend the bulk of their time in portals such as Yahoo or AOL.com, at shopping sites such as Amazon.com or eBay, or at news and entertainment sites such as CNN.com or Go.com.

Surfing the Webby nominees is a welcome chance to get off the beaten path and go exploring again. Not only will you see something new, but it's very likely to be cool and interesting to boot.

A quick look at some of this year's nominees gives an idea of what awaits you: In the Kids category, check out AfriCam.com, which features live camera links to watering holes, underwater reefs, beaver dams and other wildlife sites in Africa and around the world.

In government and law, YourCongress.com tells you everything you ever wanted to know (and then some) about the wacky world of Washington. All in favor, say aye.

Shoutcast.com, in the services category, introduces you to the world of Internet-only radio.

In sports, Bowl.com offers an amazing amount of information about one of the nation's most popular and least covered sports.

The ever-popular weird category features, among others, the "Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization." Whether you believe Sasquatch exists, this is a site worth checking out at www.bfro.net.

I particularly enjoyed the broadband category, which showcased several sites showcasing online video and animation features.

After you've had a look-see, you can vote online for your favorite sites in the Webby's People's Voice Awards.

You may not agree with the decisions by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which hands out the actual Webbys, but no matter.

Finding something new and interesting on the Web is its own reward.