ALEXANDRIA, VA (Jan. 26, 2000) -- The Motley Fool's NOW 50 Index. You've certainly seen mentions of it floating around this website if you've visited anytime since January 3, 2000. That was the day that the NOW 50, the Fool's first stock index, was launched. What is the NOW 50 Index? What is its purpose? What 50 companies made the list? Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) is one of them (and 92% of the 50 companies on the list use Oracle software, as the company was proud to announce), but what are the other 49 companies?

Well, that is the meat of the matter, isn't it? But first comes a little sauce. Namely, how was the Fool's Now 50 Index created?

We're glad you asked, because the NOW 50 represents a "first." The index's creation was an interactive process, making it the first stock index in the world (that we know of) that was created primarily by the community at large, in this case, the Fool community. You suggested nearly 300 companies, and then you helped Fool trustees narrow the list down to the 50 (it is hoped) best companies based on the given criteria.

Of course, not all of the 50 companies on the index will end up being among the best in the world long term, but many of them will, because these are the movers and shakers, the most interesting and aggressive operations. America Online (NYSE: AOL) and Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) made the list, for example (meaning that the index will now need to find a new company soon, to replace the open slot when these two merge). More interesting to us as investors, however, may be the companies on the list that we don't know so well yet.

As Bill Mann (TMF Otter) wrote, "The companies that make up the components of the NOW 50 are in the vanguard of the trends that will define commerce in the next decades. They possess a gold-plated brand name, a tradition of innovation, a superior use of technology, and a culture of accountability to their shareholders. They also, as a group, represent the globalization of the American economy."

Why did the Fool launch the NOW 50 Index? Was it to replace the outdated Dow Jones Industrial 30? Was it to offer a more concentrated index than the S&P 500 or the Russell 2000? Was it to place the best companies in the world (the NOW 50 does hold international leaders, unlike the market's traditional indices) into one, reasonably sized index? Yes, yes, and yes. And then some.

Fools are always trying to improve things, to find better solutions. We believe that the Fool's NOW 50 Index tracks the direction of leading public companies across all meaningful industries around the world better than any other index in existence. This is why we now track all the Fool's real-money portfolios against the NOW 50 Index. And this is why we in Drip Port are taking a close look at the index to see if it holds any novel investment ideas for us. Thanks to new online services like and ShareBuilder, we can buy just about any company we want in small amounts.

Take a look at the NOW 50 yourself. Read about how it was created, learn how it is tracked, and see what qualities everyone sought while choosing the companies that made the list. Then take a look at the list of 50 esteemed companies. Investors are often searching for new, attractive investment ideas. The Fool's new NOW 50 Index offers 50 for your consideration.

Fool on!