17 Ways to Invest in the Web

You're investing time and money in your business, so why not invest your profits in the broader Web community? Below you'll find 17 publicly traded Web, technology and software companies that could make good additions to your investment portfolio. While we're in no way qualified to say whether these companies would actually make good investments, on their own these are noteworthy companies in their respective industries and deserve the attention of the broader investing world.

There are clearly way more Web, software and technology companies that you could invest in, but consider this a starting point to opportunities outside of the obvious (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.).

Zix (formerly ZixIt) offers secure e-mail software and services for corporate customers. Its products enable users to transmit encrypted e-mail and documents to any address in the world; recipients who are not service subscribers can access the messages through the company's ZixMail.net portal. The company also offers an electronic prescribing service that allows physicians to use a handheld device to prescribe drugs and transmit prescriptions electronically.

Websense provides employee Internet management, Web filtering, and security software designed to help businesses monitor and improve employee productivity, control what content employees can access, and reduce network bandwidth and storage usage. Companies use the Websense Enterprise software to monitor and report employee Internet usage, block access to certain content, and set time periods for when access is available. Clients such as McDonald's and the US Army subscribe to the hosted service, which checks for compliance against a proprietary database of more than 180 million websites in about 90 categories.

Vocus produces software to help automate a variety of public relations tasks, like organizing media contacts, managing news collection, and analyzing public relations effectiveness. Users vary from not-for-profits and the government to corporations and public relations professionals. The company also offers a proprietary information database of over 800,000 journalists, analysts, media outlets and publicity opportunities.

Support.com (formerly SupportSoft) provides Web-based support software which identifies and repairs hardware and software problems, reducing the need for technical support staffing. The company serves consumers and small businesses, with its offerings available through its website and through partners like as retailers, broadband providers, and anti-virus software providers.

SourceForge produces websites aimed primarily at open source software developers and other technology enthusiasts. The company's websites include SourceForge.net (an online collaborative development site), Slashdot.org (peer-produced and -moderated technology news), Linux.com (information regarding Linux migration strategies), and Freshmeat.net (open source software directory). It also operates ThinkGeek, an online shop for apparel, books, and tech gadgets.

Rackspace provides a range of Web hosting and managed network services for businesses. It primarily offers traditional hosting services with dedicated servers, but it has expanded into cloud hosting, which lets customers utilize pooled server resources on an on-demand basis. Rackspace also provides hosted collaboration, email, and file back-up applications. The company markets its service operations under the name Fanatical Support. It has more than 50,000 enterprise customers and operates nine data centers located in the US, Hong Kong, and the UK.

Open Text hopes to enhance communication by opening the book on enterprise content management (ECM). The company develops software used to search corporate intranets, manage documents and workflows, collaborate on business projects from different locations, and handle group scheduling tasks. Open Text's offerings also include software for managing collections of cataloged information, library automation, and group scheduling, as well as vertical offerings for  industries like pharmaceutical, legal, oil and gas, financial services, and media. Customers have included Motorola, Nortel Networks, and the US Army Reserve; key strategic partners include Microsoft and Oracle.

Openwave is all for opening new lines of communication. The company, which developed much of the technology behind the wireless application protocol (WAP) standard, provides software and services that wireless operators use to give customers Internet and corporate intranet access from their mobile phones. Its applications allow service providers to offer e-mail, Web navigation, and messaging services to mobile users. Openwave also offers infrastructure software to automate tasks like billing and service provisioning, and it offers managed application services. The company's customers include Sprint and KDDI. About half of Openwave's sales come from customers outside North America.

Keynote Systems provides Internet performance management services to all manner of companies with a Web presence. Using a network of computers connected to Internet backbones in more than 200 cities worldwide, Keynote monitors the speed of activities like conducting ecommerce transactions, downloading Web pages, or using wireless applications to help clients identify information bottlenecks. It offers qualitative research and consulting services covering online behavior, industry trends, and customer satisfaction to help clients improve the customer experience. Keynote also tests and measures the performance of mobile devices.

Kana Software provides customer relationship management (CRM) software for call centers and ecommerce websites. Kana's software capabilities include customer service interaction through live Web chat, e-mail, telephone, and customer self-serve portals. It also offers applications that assist with and guide agents through conversations with customers. Other key offerings include consulting, technical support, and training services. Kana Software serves companies in the telecommunications, manufacturing, financial services, and health care industries.

Lionbridge Technologies wants to be king of the jungle at bridging the language gap. The company offers translation, or localization, of software, user manuals, Web content, and other materials, preparing them for international use by tailoring them to individual languages and cultures. The firm also supplies human interpreters to government agencies and businesses. Lionbridge also provides testing services. Under its VeriTest brand, the company checks websites, software, and hardware to ensure their quality. Microsoft accounts for about 20% of sales, and other clients have included Google, Volvo, and Nikon.

Liquidity Services (LSI) is an online auction firm providing manufacturers, retailers, and corporations with an electronic business-to-business marketplace to dispose of, liquidate, and track goods in the reverse supply chain. About 1 million buyers are registered for the firm's online marketplaces, through which they can bid for wholesale, surplus, and salvage assets like retail customer returns, overstock products, and end-of-life goods. LSI also offers valuation, appraisal, inventory, marketing, sale, and logistical management of assets; warehousing and inspection of inventory; and transaction support such as payment collection and dispute mediation.

iMergent helps you cast a wide net for Internet shoppers. The company provides software and ecommerce services that enable small businesses to establish online storefronts. Its software helps merchants to create and maintain their ecommerce site and process orders. The company promotes seminars around the country to sell its products to aspiring ecommerce mavens. iMergent also offers related services like consulting, creative design, transaction processing, data warehousing, and help desk support.

GigaMedia develops and licenses online gaming software, provides application consulting and development services, and operates an online gaming service. Its software portfolio includes gaming management tools used to provide online games, monitor user behavior, and manage transactions. The company's online entertainment includes casual games like poker and mahjong, as well as online role-playing games. GigaMedia's development and consulting services range from infrastructure design to transaction processing and customer support. The company continues to operate its legacy business, providing broadband Internet service.

Digital River helps keep the ecommerce flowing. The company provides technology and services that enable its clients to sell their products on the Web without building an ecommerce platform from the ground up. Using its own proprietary server technology, Digital River offers Web development and hosting, transaction processing, fulfillment, and fraud screening services to more than 40,000 customers operating online retail and distribution businesses. It also provides its customers with Web traffic data that allows them to better market their online presence. Security software client Symantec accounted for 24% of total sales in 2008. Digital River has been growing through a steady stream of acquisitions.

Citrix Systems is taking connectivity to the next level. The company provides access infrastructure products that enable PCs, IP phones, and other devices to remotely and securely access applications across wired and wireless networks, freeing customers from facing the difficult task of installing and updating software on each piece of hardware. Its product line includes application virtualization software, VPN appliances, and password management tools, with most applications capable of being deployed in both Windows and UNIX-based computing environments. The company also offers online managed services for meetings and presentations, technical support, and remote desktop access.

BroadVision gives companies a peek into the world of customer self-service. The company provides software applications that enable businesses to offer their customers personalized self-service via the Internet. BroadVision's software suite includes applications for integrating business processes with self-service operations; managing the sales process, including lead generation, execution, and customer service; connecting customers to personalized online views of content; and managing content from creation through distribution.