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HOW WORLDLY IS THE World Wide Web? According to Polyglot International, a San Francisco company that offers language-translation services for developers of digital media, about 75% of European Web sites use only a native language--no English.

Now, Globalink Inc. in Fairfax, Va., has come up with a way for English-only speakers to deal with many of those sites.

Globalink's Web Translator program converts the text of French, German, and Spanish Web pages into English--or vice versa. Usually in about a minute, the software translates a page's text and hotlinks and redisplays them complete with the original graphics.

Working with Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator browser, the $49.95 Web Translator program is most effective when dealing with formal text. It has difficulty coping with the latest Web slang words.

The program is available on a CD-ROM for use with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 programs.EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITYReturn to top


EVER SINCE PEOPLE BEGAN connecting with one another on the Internet, it has been clear that the Net has great potential as a place for building virtual communities--electronic "places" where people will socialize, transact business, and relate as professionals. But how can members of such communities, and the computers that represent them, trust each other in cyberspace? How can you be sure Netizens and cyber-merchants are really who they claim to be? Or that security is reliable and that software received off the Net is harmless? Without such assurances, virtual communities may never take shape.

One solution is to rely on some sort of central authority to keep track of who's who. A server can maintain the master list of a community's computers, for instance, and verify their identities as a service to everyone else on the Net. That approach will fail, however, when hundreds of millions of computers start asking for service and overload the central computer.

Electric Communities, a Los Altos (Calif.) company, has developed what it claims is an approach that will work no matter how many people log on. It's based on a new computer language, E, that extends Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java language. E stems from Electric Communities' experience in designing an early online community called Habitat. With E, computers will be able to automatically establish who they are across a network. Then they can share software and exchange payments safely. The company plans to make E freely available across the Net in hopes of making it a standard. Electric Communities will make its money by selling E-based programming tools.EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITYReturn to top


CALL IT THE WORLD WIDE WAIT: ESPECIALLY IN THE LATE evening, when the Web is busiest, many of its most popular attractions are practically unreachable. Between overtaxed servers, digital traffic jams, and slow PC modems, it can take minutes for Web pages to show up.

So why not let your PC do the Web-walking for you--late at night, when traffic is down and you're sound asleep? A new breed of "offline" software offers to do just that. Products such as FreeLoader, Blue Squirrel, and Web Whacker can automatically grab copies of specified Web pages--once an hour, once a day, or as often as you like. Later, you can browse the pages as usual, displaying them in a flash off your hard drive.

Companies that advertise on the Web may benefit, too. Some off-line browsers ask users to supply a few pieces of personal data, which are passed on to advertisers along with data on how often certain Web ads are getting viewed.

Sunil Paul, founder and CEO of Washington-based FreeLoader Inc., says Web-site operators and Internet service companies are likely to start encouraging offline browsing, perhaps through discount pricing, to cut peak-period traffic.EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITYReturn to top

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