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The awards allegedly began in 1993 as a Stanford student's newsletter to friends with stories culled from newspapers. Since then they have grown to become an international institution. There is little attempt on the site to distinguish between "urban legend," "rumor" and "confirmed" occurrences as many of the stories have been met with incredulity.
There are only two categories of listings: "Nominees" and "At-Risk Survivors," the latter of whom are people who survived (or otherwise were not injured beyond procreative capability) but may still not have learned their lesson and may yet repeat their actions. There are no Darwin Award "winners," because... well, really, if any of them were real life winners, they wouldn't be on the site. A "Double Darwin" nominee is a story of two people who off/handicap each other due to mutual stupidity.
A large number of the "awards" are in respect of hoaxes and urban legends. Mythbusting site Snopes maintains that there is no group of people assiduously assessing candidates and that they are just lists created by anonymous people on the internet.
In popular culture
The Spike TV show 1000 Ways to Die seems to be heavily inspired by the Darwin Awards. It has essentially the same concept, but adds that many of the alleged deaths occurred to people who deserved it as an act of karma.