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Welcome to Middleware'98 and to one of England's most beautiful regions. In recent years the distributed systems community has witnessed a growth in the number of conferences, leading to difficulties in tracking the literature and a consequent loss of awareness of work done by others in this important field. The aim of Middleware'98 is to synthesise many of the smaller workshops and conferences in this area, bringing together research communities which were becoming fragmented. The conference has been designed to maximise the experience for attendees. This is reflected in the choice of a resort venue (rather than a big city) to ensure a strong focus on interaction with other distributed systems researchers. The programme format incorporates a question-and-answer panel in each session, enabling significant issues to be discussed in the context of related papers and presentations. The invited speakers and tutorials are intended to not only inform the attendees, but also to stimulate discussion and debate.