Investors are always hunting for the next big stock -- the dream stock whose price increases several times over when the market finally discovers it. It's easy to look back and see what the 10 best stocks of the past decade were. But I'm more interested in tools that can not only help me find new stock ideas, but also evaluate tomorrow's greatest companies.

One such tool offers a variety of resources to help with finding tomorrow's leaders: Motley Fool CAPS, a 125,000-member community of investors helping each other beat the market.

We've enlisted CAPS to screen the Internet sector and get the story behind some of the segment's more highly rated stocks. CAPS' nifty screener will help us find stocks with:

  • A market cap of at least $100 million.
  • A three year revenue growth rate of at least 20%.
  • A price-to-earnings ratio of less than 25.
  • A gross margin of at least 50%.
  • At least 200 people making a call on the company.

Then we'll tap the collective intelligence of our CAPS members to see whether these companies present real opportunities -- or whether the numbers fail to tell the true story.

Opinions with the numbers
Below is a sample of stocks our screen returned. You can run this screen yourself -- remember, though, that your results may differ from ours as the market changes.

Company

Revenue Growth Rate,
Past 3 Years

Gross Margin

CAPS Rating
(5 stars max.)

GigaMedia (NASDAQ:GIGM)

52.4%

80%

*****

NetEase.com (NASDAQ:NTES)

24.8%

85.3%

****

Shanda Interactive (NASDAQ:SNDA)

23.5%

72.5%

****

CAPS data and ratings as of Jan. 30.

GigaMedia
Online gaming company Gigmedia is one of the few cash-rich companies around these days, with more than $100 million on hand. The addictive nature of online gaming -- even during economic downturns -- keeps many investors bullish about the industry's long-term prospects. Gigamedia's strong game title lineup and partnerships with firms like Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS) to provide popular online games in huge markets such as Taiwan and China promises more growth as well.

But even though casino stocks have been hammered lately as gambling slows, Gigamedia is broadening its horizons by branching out into the sports betting world, too. The move will build off its popular poker site, Everest Poker, which is run on top poker software maker CryptoLogic's platform. With strong growth prospects and a cheap share price, 98% of the 2,046 CAPS members rating GigaMedia expect it to outperform the market.

NetEase.com
While most Chinese stocks had a rough 2008, NetEase was one of the few companies with positive returns for the year. And even after booking gains last year, the valuations still look attractive for many companies like Internet players NetEase and Sina (NASDAQ:SINA).  

Even as China's economy suffers, gaming is going strong, and Internet cafes remain packed with people playing multiplayer online role-playing games. Midway through 2008, more than half of all Chinese Internet users nationwide were estimated to be playing online games, according to government figures, with growth expected to continue its quick pace.

The booming gaming market in Asia makes it a place where everyone wants to play. For instance, Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) licenses several games to NetEase, and Electronic Arts has a stake in China's The9. With solid growth prospects, more than 97% of the 979 CAPS members rating NetEase are bullish on the stock.

Shanda Interactive
The biggest player in the Chinese gaming market overall is Shanda Interactive, which ranks just ahead of No. 2 NetEase. The company brings in nearly 70% of its revenue from just two games, but it currently has 20 in operation and more than 50 in the pipeline. At a time when many companies such as AMD (NYSE:AMD) are offering bleak forecasts, or avoiding them altogether, analysts have raised earnings targets for Shanda.

In its most recent quarter, the company blew away expectations and grew its percentage of paying users. To help it capture even more of a rapidly growing market, Shanda co-develops games and also licenses games with companies like THQ. With a strong tailwind of growth behind it, nearly 97% of the 866 CAPS members rating Shanda Interactive are calling for the stock to outperform the market.

Let 125,000 members be the judge
The collective wisdom of a huge pool of investors can help give context to a page of numbers developed through a stock screen. But even with an entire community of qualified opinions acting as the judge, individual investors are still the jury and should perform their own due diligence.

Run your favorite factors through the Motley Fool CAPS screener. It's totally free, and we think you'll like the results.

The Motley Fool Rule Breakers service looks for companies that have the potential to be first in their markets, with strong growth prospects. To see why Shanda, NetEase, and GigaMedia all made the cut, take a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock dreams of stocks and sugarplum fairies, but not together. GigaMedia is also a Global Gains pick. Sina, Electronic Arts, and Activision Blizzard are Stock Advisor picks. The Fool's disclosure policy screens the good, the bad and the ugly.