Have you ever had second thoughts about having ordered a slightly frivolous or extravagant item from a catalog, only to find the item on your doorstep before you have a chance to change your mind?

Now, I don't mean to suggest that companies have to be able to ship products quickly simply to beat out buyer's remorse. But in the age of finicky, time-obsessed consumers and hypercompetition, businesses need every edge they can get. Increasingly, the logistics edge is proving decisive. Staff writer Joshua Macht tells in his cover story, how four growing companies use a combination of smart business processes and carefully chosen computer software to make high-speed, low-cost deliveries.

The pressure to be fast weighs even heavier on the World Wide Web, where instant gratification is the standard. Time itself seems compressed on the Web. Consider how the explosively growing Web industry has come to be dominated by one company, Netscape. A tiny start-up little more than a year ago, Netscape has done a masterful job of seizing leadership in this brave new world. But at what cost to the rest of the industry, or even to the ordinary companies that use the Web? Alessandra Bianchi describes the essence of Netscape's strategy and explains why you may end up paying for it.

Of course, not everyone is cut out for the virtual world. If you're looking for a few good remote employees, read Virtual Manager William R. Pape's piece on page 23 for some hiring tips. Pape, by the way, was the first guest of our new on-line chat series on America Online (keyword Inc.). True to form, he tied in from an airport lounge.

One aspect of the on-line world you may have been ignoring (I wouldn't expect you to admit otherwise, in any case) is Web erotica. Whatever your personal views on the subject, I encourage you to put them aside long enough to think about the business intelligence produced by this controversial subindustry. You don't even have to visit the sites yourself; writer Fred Hapgood has done it for you. For a look at the advice he gleaned there for anyone doing business on the Web, see page 45. Never let it be said that we leave any stone unturned in guiding you through the digital age.

-- David H. Freedman, Editor