The earliest webcomic to be found is T.H.E. Fox, published in 1986 by Compuserve and Quantum Link. Scott McCloud, creator of Zot! and Understanding Comics, is one of the earliet advocates of webcomics and has displayed very innovative ways of playing with the medium that even the most acclaimed of webcomic artists have not taken advantage of. The techniques include using the whole web page as a storytelling medium than using a "print page." Some webcomic creators are crafty enough to use interactivity. Still, most webcomics are used on the "print page" format. Some webcomics require a subscription but most do not. Some webcomics, such as Megatokyo, have published editions but most webcomics are supplied through archives on the website they are located.
Webcomics are independently created in various styles and forms, from the "comic strip" format to manga, to pixellated imagery and even photography! Because of the freedom web comic artists possess, there is no censorship which it comes to creating comics on the Internet. For this reason, some web comics( such as Fetus X below) have garnered a heavy amount of controversy. Then again, it is not too different from comics which are published by a company such as V for Vendetta.
Very few webcomics have been able to support themselves financially. There are a few successful examples, such as Penny Arcade and 8-Bit Theater. Webcomics have merchandise for fans to purchase to supplement income for the comic. The web comic is a labor of love most of the time. Updates are given on the websites but there are times that updating comics become fairly sporadic. An example would be Juno Blair B.'s Star Cross'd Destiny, which the creator might go through personal reasons of why the next comic has been delayed. Creators also have to deal with the cost of art supplies and the cost of the server and bandwith. They would sometimes rely on donations from the comic's fans. Webcomic creators usually rely on advertising to make money than the comic itself. McCloud is an advocate of the micropayment system and some publishers such as Modern Tales already use a subscription model.
Like graphic novels, webcomics have accumulated several awards. The Eagle Awards was established for the Favorite Webcomic Category and the Ignatz Award was founded for the Most Outstanding Webcomic Category in 2001. The Eisner Awards began awarding webcomics for Best Digital Comic Category in 2005. The Harvey Awards began establshing the Best Online Comics Work in 2006 and the Shuster Awards commenced the Outstanding Canadian Web Comic Award in 2007. The Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards, established in 2001, is an online ceremony where a series of comics depict the ceremony itself! In 2007, the ceremony was held in real life at Megacon. The Clickburg Webcomic Awards, established in 2005, is held annually at the Stripdagen Haarlem comic festival. This ceremony requires a creator be located in the Benelux countries with the exception of an international award given.
I am personally enthusiastic about webcomics because they were a staple of my reading when I was a teenager growing up in difficult times. I also praise webcomics because they are an art medium that defies conventions and opens windows of opportunity on what the comics medium can do. If you haven't already, check out a webcomic online and see where the fun is.