THE WELL AT 20: A REUNION OF ONLINE PIONEERS CONVENES
San Francisco, CA — March 31, 2005 — The WELL (https://www.well.com), the ground-breaking online discussion community known for its literate conversation and widespread influence, celebrates 20 years online on April 1. The WELL is a division of Salon Media Group, publisher of the award-winning Salon.com website (http://www.salon.com).
What is it like to network and socialize online for twenty years? Howard Rheingold, author of “The Virtual Community” and “Smart Mobs,” joins Cliff Figallo, WELL Director in the 1980s and author of “Hosting Web Communities” for a community discussion of the formative days of the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, as it was originally called. This openly readable summit, running through April 7 at www.well.com, will explore the past and future of online community, mixed with a lot of spontaneous nostalgia.
“The WELL became personally and professionally all-consuming almost as soon as I joined in August, 1985. I remember that Kevin Kelly, then editor of Whole Earth Review, used the WELL as a fishing hole for ideas and writers,” said Howard Rheingold. “I remember a face to face discussion about the WELL in which I asserted that — contrary to the public perception that was widespread at that time that only terminally socially inept geeks would use computers to communicate — the WELL resembled a community. Kevin challenged me to write that up, and published my article on “Virtual Communities” in 1987. It took me five more years to find a book publisher who didn’t tell me that only programmers were interested in the Internet.”
The WELL, founded April 1, 1985 by Whole Earth Catalog publisher Stewart Brand and public health and technology pioneer Larry Brilliant, has been described as the world’s most influential online community by Internet historian Katie Hafner. Salon acquired The WELL in 1999.
“The WELL’s longevity has to be a testament to the durability, resiliency and flywheel effect of the community’s early personal relationships, formed in times of stress and promise,” said Cliff Figallo. “The WELL’s early social and technical difficulties challenged its members to hang in there and ride it into the future where it continues to hum along at the ancient computer age of 20.”
The WELL today is a gathering place dedicated to intelligent conversation. A unique and world-famous community of writers, technologists, artists, thinkers and quirky experts exchanges information and opinions on a variety of topics. The subject matter ranges from anime to Web design, from legal issues to parenting, and to whatever WELL members decide to explore today. Membership in The WELL, which includes unlimited participation in hundreds of members-only conferences, costs $10 or $15 per month depending on account features. The unfolding reunion among Rheingold, Figallo and friends may be read free of charge via links from the www.well.com home page now through April 7. In addition, within the conferences at www.well.com WELL members have planned a series of celebrations for the 20th anniversary, both online and in person.
“There’s something about this little town on the ‘net that can’t be copied or quantified,” said Gail Ann Williams, Director of Communities at Salon and 15-year WELL member. “The next 20 years should prove to be even more fascinating.”
About Salon Media Group, Inc.:
Founded in 1995, Salon is an Internet media company that produces an award winning, original-content Website of news, opinion and culture, and hosts two communities, Table Talk and The WELL.
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Gail Ann Williams, Director of Communities
Salon.com, Home of The WELL
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