What is The WELL?

picnicsmallThe WELL is a cherished destination for conversation and discussion. It is widely known as the primordial ooze where the online community movement was born — where Howard Rheingold first coined the term “virtual community.” Since long before the public Internet was unleashed, it has quietly captivated some accomplished and imaginative people. Over the last three decades, it’s been described as “the world’s most influential online community” in a Wired Magazine cover story, and ” the Park Place of email addresses” by John Perry Barlow. It’s won Dvorak and Webby Awards, inspired songs and novels, and almost invisibly influences modern culture.

The WELL was founded in 1985 in association with the Whole Earth Review and has been owned since 2012 by a group of its long-term active members. The outpouring of support confirmed that The WELL continues to cast a long cultural shadow. Not quite underground, though sometimes under the radar, for many people it’s a place you aren’t quite sure you’ve heard of, but suspect that you wish you had. For members, it’s the place to come up with the next interesting thing. Ultimately, it becomes a way to live.

How Did It Get So Good?

There is nothing quite like The WELL, and the secret has a lot to do with its evolution. Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant founded the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link in 1985, starting with a dialog between the fiercely independent writers and readers of the Whole Earth Review. This set the tone for the playful intellectual and social gathering that continues today. Over the years, WELL members have made fast friends, created enduring traditions, gathered casually face-to-face in cities ’round the world, and provided mutual support. They have founded organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Craig’s List, and documented what was emerging in books like Howard Rheingold’s The Virtual Community, John Seabrook’s Deeper, and Katie Hafner’s The WELL. They have gone into business together, fallen in and out of love, cultivated feuds, taken kickass vacations together and enriched lives.

The WELL social experience continues to evolve and surprise.

Where Is The WELL?

The WELL is a territory in its own right, inhabited by people from all over the world. The first WELL computer and modem rack were physically located in Sausalito, California, near the classic rustic houseboat harbor. The WELL’s machinery is now in the cloud, but the feeling of a distinctive place is just a few keystrokes away, no matter where you are.

Where is The WELL? There’s no simple answer to that question, but as Gertrude Stein might have said, “There’s a there there.”

Plunge Into The WELL

The WELL is a place made of words, an extraordinary word palace with thousands upon thousands of conversations of interest. There is an area you can look at without a password, but most of the content and interaction takes place within one of the most noted “walled gardens” in the world. The bottom line is that members know it’s our ongoing, semi-private interaction that matters.

You don’t need an invitation from a member in order to become part of The WELL. That’s a myth. You do need to use your real name, but we will not attempt to get you to invite your email contacts or otherwise drag the rest of your daily life in with you.

The service is distinguished by the quality of our non-anonymous participants, and by uncommon policies. This unique gathering is both greatly valued and directly supported by WELL subscribers. If you are ready to participate, you are welcome to come along for the ride.

The best way to learn is to plunge in and explore for a month or two, to decide whether this is the place for you.

As you’ll soon see, there’s nothing like The WELL. Join us.