Beyond serving as a link to local merchants, the next step for local Web portals may be to offer a range of services, so a dad who missed a Little League game, for instance, can keep tabs on the score while on a business trip.
Or a homeowner planning renovations could look up local building codes and apply for a permit online.
The goal "is to bring online every [local] sports team, school, government agency, and church group," says Michael Moran, CEO of koz.com, a Raleigh, North Carolina, company that newspapers hire to help set up local portals.
People could download local events, such as council meetings, to their personal calendars.
And payments to local merchants could be made by a direct funds transfer through a local bank.
Some companies are taking the Web to even smaller communities, such as local as single apartment buildings and office towers.
So far, newspapers and others who build local portals aren't making money, though local ad revenues could mount quickly, says Mr. Moran.
But e-commerce in general is still in its formative years, so companies are willing to try it.
"The more we can make the Internet resemble the real world, the more late adopters will use it," says Moran.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society