WITH interest in the World-Wide Web exploding, businesses jumping on-line and sites displaying commercial advertisements, counting the number of hits Web sites receive is increasingly important. In order for any figure to be useful and comparable, the means and methods used to count the number of hits must be consistent and verifiable. And the count must come from a reliable, unbiased source. That's where counting services such as iAudit come in. Another counting company, NetCount, unveiled a package of counting services at Internet World in Boston. NetCount, a Los Angeles company conected with Web developer Digital planet, says its services are authoritative, impartial and accurate. The NetCount service suite includes a basic free service and several value-added services. At the bottom is the free Web site software and basic report services. Up the scale, NetCount Plus is available at a monthly fee which can reach into the thousands dollars depending on the number of hits a site receives - this is definitely not a sevice for small-time sites. Users can access a range of more detailed and custom reports on demand. NetCount is aiming to grab the advertising market with specialised services. These include NetCount Rate and Ranking Intelligence Reports which give the advertising community comparative performance data. To enhance cross-Web advertising, NetCount AdSwap is a bulletin board designed to encourage advertisement swapping between sites. Finally, AdCount tracks the number of times a particular advertisment is clicked on and offers demographic information about users. This suite of services offers what could become one of the standard auditing packages for Web Site access. There have been some services, mostly free, which offer the basic services offered by NetCount. One is iAudit, which provides basic useful information and offers a shareware viewing tool which can graphically display daily, weekly and monthly access results compiled for a page. Unfortunately, iAudit became so popular that on several occasions it has had to stop offering on-line access to results (although it kept counting) because the number of hits it was receiving was overloading its server. One big problem with most counting services is they require using some form of graphic in the Web page to increment the counter. This means accesses where images aren't downloaded, don't get counted. Others require the use of server-side includes which pose possible security risks, and therefore are not available on all service provider's Web servers. It seems that NetCount has hit on a service that could become pervasive around the Web where sites need accurate, reportable records of their popularity. NetCount's Web page, which I am sure is being counted, is on-line at http://www.netcount.com/ . TIP OF THE WEEK: Travel a lot? Need to know the weather at a destination? Then Intellicast may have the answer for you. Offering four-day forecasts for cities worldwide along with images, Intellicast can be reached at http://www.intel licast.com/index.html.