It isn't pretty, the competition that erupts among regions that want to draw more of the technology industry to their borders.

Consider an ad that the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority has been running in publications such as Wired magazine.

"Whether you know it as the home of George Washington or the home of the Internet," it declares, "Northern Virginia's Fairfax County will likely prove itself strategic ground for your next revolution."

Never mind that there's no agreement about where the Internet was born. The ad goes on to attack the prime competition, Silicon Valley, in ways that would make a political consultant proud. The Silicon Valley "dream" can vanish when you see the reality of the place, the ad informs us: commutes that take "longer than the average Internet product cycle," street parking "less common than bald eagle sightings" and a loft with a price tag "equivalent to a minor Hollywood movie."

Mike Cassidy, a writer for the San Jose Mercury News, was so annoyed by the ads that he struck back with a Sunday magazine column titled "Carry Me Back to Ol' Virginny?"

"Whom do these bumpkins think they're dealing with?" wrote Cassidy.

"Most of what you need to know about Fairfax, Va. is it's in the South and it's not Atlanta."

Ouch.

In an interview, Cassidy explained: "We can't stand by and have Silicon Valley denigrated this way."

Gerald Gordon, president of the Fairfax development authority, felt miffed enough at the column that he's writing a letter of protest to the editor of the Mercury News.

"Silicon Valley is yesterday's news," he says. "They manufacture. We do ideas." The ads, Gordon says, are designed merely to draw high-tech workers to the area. You can expect the campaign to continue: The group has a $2.1 million advertising budget for 2000.

Cassidy's not the only spoilsport about the ads. Some technology executives in this area have been quietly grousing that by promoting itself separately, Fairfax is chipping away at the whole Washington region's image as a tech center, and they feel the ad takes some liberties.

The ad, for instance, notes that America Online Inc. was founded in Fairfax County. That's true, but it doesn't mention that this biggest success story for the region is now headquartered in Loudoun County.

Others feel the rejoinders from the Valley are justified. "We asked for it," says Mario Morino, a local technology investor, about Cassidy's column. "This type of promotion is counterproductive and in the long term damaging to our very purpose."

It makes no sense to alienate people in California, he says. "The reality is that our entrepreneurs, established players and venture capitalists have to work with their counterparts in the Valley, Boston, Seattle and other high-tech centers," says Morino.

One of the points in contention between Gordon and Cassidy is the location of the "home of the Internet." Cassidy says the Valley deserves the honor, as the first place that was smart enough to use it.

So, let us know what you think: Is the Washington area home of the Internet? Is Silicon Valley? Does the Internet even need a home? Download your thoughts to henrys@washpost.com.

Cult heroes of cyberspace Rob "Commander Taco" Malda, Jeff "Hemos" Bates and Nate Oostendorp, all commentators on the popular www.slashdot.org Web site for nerds, are about to make a splash in Laurel.

The techie trio will star in a new weekly show called "Geeks in Space" produced by Laurel's The Sync, which airs made-for- Internet programming. The geeks hope to become as famous as The Sync's Jennifer Ringley of "The Jenni Show," who brought "The JenniCam" to a Web browser near you.

You can almost see Network Solutions techies and executives standing around the vast computer center where a database of all the .com, .net and .org Internet addresses resides.These people are asking themselves: "What else can we do with all this stuff?"

What does a company do when it loses its monopoly?

Network Solutions Inc. of Herndon, which has had a nice ride as the sole registrar of many types of domain names since 1992, is about to face competition for the first time.

So, looking for revenue in new places, it plans to launch on Monday another line of business, the "dot com directory."

It's a search engine to find companies. You can input whatever information you know about a company--name, address, city, type of product--to find its Web address and other information such as company news, stock quotes and directions to the business. About 1.8 million addresses are searchable.

If you're trying to find the site of a certain shoe store on Connecticut Avenue, for example, a search would bring up the names and Web addresses of all the shoe stores on that street. Assuming, of course, that they have Web sites.

Listings, like in the yellow pages, are free. But Network Solutions plans to make money on the directory through ads placed prominently on the search site. The next feature will probably be the ability to fax or e-mail companies directly from the directory.

Jim Rutt, Network Solutions' new president, says that while search engines such as AltaVista and Lycos are good for topical searches, they bring up irrelevant results when you're looking for a particular business.

While he didn't give specifics, Rutt says Network Solutions will branch out even more and will probably make acquisitions and investments to that end. Constraints for the company, says Rutt, are money, giving Wall Street the results it wants, and management's ability to get things done.

"You've got to be careful not to stuff more food in your face than you can chew," says the affable Rutt.

Some of Network Solutions' emerging competitors think that the company is happily overfeeding itself. They feel this service is a misuse of data that should be shared with everyone now. You can expect to hear protests, and maybe concerted efforts to derail this service.

Send tips and tales of the digital capital's local people, deals and events to Shannon Henry at henrys@washpost. com.

TechThursday columnist Shannon Henry will host a live Web chat today at 1 p.m. with Bob Nelson, president of Nelson & Co. and founder of Crossmedia Networks Inc. He'll talk about what happens when a start-up runs out of money. To participate, go to www.washingtonpost.com.

CAPTION: Network Solutions President Jim Rutt sees a need for a better directory to navigate the World Wide Web.