The Information Gold Mine

New software--and the Net's legions of cybersurfers and shoppers--are starting to hand companies opportunities they've only dreamed of

When Harley Dixon clicked on NextCard Inc.'s advertisement for a credit card on the financial Web site, he couldn't believe what he found. It promised instant approval and a choice of terms based on his credit history--all in less than 35 seconds. Intrigued, the retired engineer from Henrietta, N.Y., filled out a short online form with his name, address, income, and Social Security number. Bingo! Seconds later, up popped three offers. Says Dixon: "Next thing you know, I had a new card."

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