It was conceived at a particle-physics lab in Geneva, Switz erland in 1989 and released to the public approximately four years ago. Since then the World Wide Web has been weaving its way not only into people's personal lives but also, increasingly, into their professional ones. It's estimated that a new Web address, also known as a home page or Web site, is created every four seconds. What role do Web sites play in the day-to-day running of small businesses? Which sites are fashionable with fast-growing companies? We asked a random sampling of Inc. 500 CEOs to describe how the Web is helping them do business. At right is a selection of their favorite Web sites, including the features they like best and the most valuable discoveries they've made on the Web.

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CEO/Company Favorite Site Address
Cal Lai/Lai, Venuti & Lai/Santa Clara, Calif. Egghead

Business: Provides advertising services. Site used for: "Finding information on anything relating to computers, for buying products, and for preparing client pitches." The site contains two years' worth of articles from computer publications. Best piece of information found: "An article on a prospective client's marketing strategy. We built our pitch around it and won the account." What's to like: It ranks articles in order of importance. Plus, "it's information at your fingertips."

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Richard Gorgens/Microsystems Software/Framingham, Mass. Infoseek's Infoseek
search engine

Business: Develops and markets internetworking-software products. Site used for: "Finding information on competitors, potential customers, and trade shows." Best piece of information found: A contact in Prodigy's press department and the company's press releases, which showed Gorgens what the company's "hot buttons" were. Ultimately, Microsystems landed the Prodigy account. What's to like: "Its matches are better than Yahoo's. It's more selective."

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Steven Papermaster/BSG/Houston CNN Interactive

Business: Provides next-generation services to the high-tech industry.

Site used for: "Watching stock-market trends, financial reports, government releases, and industry trends." Best piece of information found: "No one piece, but I can find things out a day in advance of other people. It buys me time to make decisions." What's to like: "It's well formatted in terms of easy access for focusing on relevant topics."

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Brad Freeburg/Lantronix/Irvine, Calif. Digital Equipment
Corp.'s Alta Vista or
search engine or

Business: Manufactures Ethernet network peripherals. Site used for: "Finding corporate information and information about competitors, products, or features." Best piece of information found: "Market-relevant information, like pricing, features, and product information." What's to like: "It's extremely easy to use."

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James Ackles/LBS Capital Management/Clearwater, Fla. Web site: Microsoft

Business: Provides registered investment-adviser and money-manager services. Site used for: Finding answers that don't appear in Microsoft's databases' Help menus. Best piece of information found: An answer to a technical problem that helped LBS create a better statement for a client. What's to like: "It gives valuable information, free."

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Peter Zandan/IntelliQuest/Austin, Tex. Web site: Suck

Business: Provides high-tech market-research services. Site used for: "Getting pithy commentary on the high-tech industry." Best piece of information found: "That a few talented people with a good idea can do things with very little money better than huge corporations with tons of money." What's to like: "It casts a jaundiced eye on a lot of hype. It's a humorous reality check."

-- Researched by Robina A. Gangemi