Internet Conference Arrives in L.A.

The Internet may live in cyberspace, but this week it's touching down at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the Spring Internet World 98 conference and trade show.

The five-day event beginning today brings together more than 50,000 people--most of whom are looking for ways to make money on the global computer network--in a massive tech fest featuring such celebrities as Yahoo's Jerry Yang and UUNet Technologies' John Sidgmore.

For hard-core techies, Internet World features workshops on Web system administration, TCP/IP network architecture, and the relative merits of Java versus ActiveX. For the business-minded, there are sessions on electronic commerce, business software and "Getting Top Management to Sign Off on the Internet." And social activists can debate topics such as online privacy, spam and the future of Internet governance.

No fewer than 600 companies will exhibit products, and dozens will make "major announcements."

Pasadena-based EarthLink Network will unveil an advanced kind of Web site called an EarthLink Internet room, with features such as online chatting and Internet phone service. The rooms can be customized with characters from the "Dilbert" and "Peanuts" comic strips, among others, and are designed so that even novices can set them up.

USWeb, the nationwide Net strategy and professional services firm, will announce that its three Los Angeles-area offices--DreamMedia, LA Metro and W3-design--will consolidate into one. The new USWeb Los Angeles will have more than 100 employees and count GTE, Kaiser Permanente, Paramount Pictures and UCLA among its clients.

In the Web-hosting business, Best Internet Communications Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., will reveal its plans to merge with Hiway Technologies Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. The combined company, which will have more than 80,000 domain customers, will enter the top tier of Web-hosting companies, with 20% of the market, according to the companies.

Not all of the announcements will tout the benefits of new products, however. ZDNet plans to launch an online petition for customers who buy faulty software but must fight an uphill battle to return the products. The "Software Money-Back Guarantee" petition will be presented to software vendors and the Software Publishers Assn.

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