Created by Ron Pernick with assistance from Cliff Figallo and Gail Ann
Williams for the Anniversary in 1995.
1985 on The WELL
WELL boots up its computer and turns on
The WELL is founded as a partnership by Larry Brilliant, of Networking
Technologies International (NETI) and Stewart Brand of the Point
Foundation. NETI provides the computer, software and a loan of $90,000.
The Point Foundation, responsible for the Whole Earth Catalog series,
provides staff, office space, Whole Earth's name recognition and regular
coverage in "Whole Earth Review" magazine.
Business goals remained flexible.
Matthew McClure is named the founding director.
Many writers, computer wizards, scientists and other experts with
associations with Whole Earth were given free accounts and invited to help
invent the system by starting areas of conversation and cooperatively
designing the interface.
The WELL presented its first users with the sole disclaimer: "You Own Your
YOYOW strived to achieve the one goal of attracting interesting people into
on-line conversation with each other, while giving them responsibility for
their own words and ideas.
* April 1st.
The WELL opens for business, allowing customers to register on-line to use
the WELL for $8 per month plus $2 per hour.
The initial staff is one full-time and one part-time employee.
The WELL exists on a leased VAX 11/750 computer and hard disks, UNIX system
software and a conferencing program called Picospan. The WELL has 12 phone
lines and 800 MB storage.
The WELL makes USENET news groups available to its customers and begins
exchanging electronic mail with other networked computes around the world.
Packet-switched connections via UniNet are made available enabling
customers to reach the WELL over long distance at lower hourly cost.
1986 on the Well:
The WELL incorporates as a company.
Hourly prices are raised to $3 per hour from $2 per hour.
One year after the opening of The WELL, the Grateful Dead conference is
started. The already-extant community of Deadheads finds a virtual home on
the WELL and gives the WELL a financial and cultural boost.
The True Confessions conference is begun. WELL members are encouraged to
tell stories from their past and find out about each other.
Cliff Figallo replaces Matthew McClure as director.
John Coate, WELL Support Manager, and Maria Syndicus, a WELL conference
host, organize the first WELL Office Party with open invitation to all
customers and friends. (Parties have since continued on a monthly basis
for over 100 months.)
WELL management expels a customer for causing widespread social havoc.
This would be the only such expulsion of a WELL member up to the present.
The WELL's population begins to focus more on the development of community
The first baby's birth in chronicled on The WELL and celebrated on-line by
Packet switched to tymnet.
1987 on the Well:
The WELL reaches 2,000 registered members.
The Weird conference is established. Weird proves that a no-holds-barred
pressure relief area is a good thing to have to relieve tensions in the
rest of the community.
The WELL takes its Office Party to the beach for the first time.
"Off-line," the WELL's occasional printed newsletter, is sent out for the
For the first month, the WELL's revenues exceed expenses, achieving
1988 on the Well:
The first wedding between WELL beings takes place-event is celebrated on-line.
The WELL is featured in its first New York Times article.
Packet switched to Compuserve Packet Network (CPN) from tymnet.
The WELL receives the Media Alliance Meritorious Achievement Award for
1989 on the Well:
WELL management creates the Anonymous conference where peoples' identities
are hidden. WELL members begin spoofing one another's identities.
Immediate chaos and angst occurs and the conference is removed.
The WELL's original VAX computer, overburdened almost since the beginning,
is replaced by a more powerful Sequent with the help from $25,000 in
voluntary prepayments by WELL customers.
The WELL has available 20 phone lines and 1.6 GB memory.
The Loma Prieta Earthquake shakes the San Francisco area and the WELL
becomes a message center for people communicating into and out of the Bay
Area. For a brief time The WELL becomes one of the few methods of
exchanging information with the outside world.
The WELL's computer software license is upgraded to handle up to 64
1990 on the WELL:
ECHO (East Coast Hang Out) goes on-line in New York City. WELL staff and
customers help create the early vision.
The WELL opens a discussion involving programmers, writers,
first-generation computer hackers and two teenaged self-styled hackers call
Phiber Optic and Acid Phreak. The forum on "the ethics of hacking" is
transcribed and printed by Harpers and Phiber and acid are given accounts
on the WELL.
The first funeral is held for a member of the WELL community, Blair Newman.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is founded based on discussions of law
and justice in cyberspace held on The WELL. The EFF conference is created
on the WELL.
The WELL reaches 5,000-registered members.
Hourly prices are dropped from $3 to $2 and the monthly fee is raised from
$8 to $10 to encourage people to stay on-line ore and contribute their
The WELL receives the Best On-line Publication award from the Computer
1991 on the WELL:
Rosewood Stone Group purchases NETI's half ownership in the WELL.
The WELL has its first chili cook-off, which becomes a yearly event.
Members travel cross-country to compete.
Gail Ann Williams replaces John Coate as Conferencing Manager.
1992 on the WELL:
The WELL's Internet connection goes live. Customers are able to search
databases and log into other systems on the Internet from their WELL
accounts. Equally important, Internet access opens the WELL's doors to a
larger audience, allowing people from around the country and world to
participate with lower access costs.
The WELL has another major computer upgrade, from a Balance to Symmetry
Maurice Weitman replaces Cliff Figallo as Director.
WELL monthly fees go from $10 to $15 to help cover expenses of system
upgrades and more staff.
Generation X conference opens, an immediate hit.
The WELL receives the Best On-line System award from Dvorak/Zoom
1993 on the WELL:
Howard Rheingold, a premier member of the WELL community, publishes The
Virtual Community, a book the focuses on The WELL and other on-line
WELL Conferencing Manager Gail Ann Williams gathers volunteer conference
hosts for the first "Hosts on Hosting" meeting, to nurture the skills
of on-line moderators.
1994 on The WELL:
Bruce Katz buys the second half of The WELL from The Point Foundation,
acquiring full ownership.
The WELL hosts the Woodstock '94 Internet Multimedia Center, enabling
people onsite and around the world to share their experiences. This
project launches The WELL's experimental web program.
The WELL reaches 10,000 registered members.
The WELL begins testing PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) access over
high-speed modems and ISDN lines.
Bruce Katz, CEO, replaces Maurice Weitman as director.
System storage space more than doubles to 30 GBs.
The WELL receives three major 1994 industry awards:
*The Best BBS award from PC World.
*The 1994 Best Bulletin Board award from Computer Currents.
*The Electronic Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier
* December 31
The global New Year's Eve party on the Internet is initiated by WELL
members and supported by The WELL. Live and cyber sites around the world
and across 5 time zones come together to celebrate.
Through the Anniversary... 1995 on the WELL:
The WELL officially launches and opens its Web site. The WELL becomes the
first major on-line service to offer direct self-publishing on the Web for
its membership. Over 180 members pages are put up in the first month.
New menu interface is introduced to simplify access to WELL conferences and
Internet services. New Members' Guide is published.
With the aid of The WELL technical staff, the FBI captures system
intruder and famed hacker Kevin Mitnick.
The WELL upgrades its server to a SUN SPARC 1000e and increases security as
well as processing power. System memory is doubled and storage space
increases to 40 GBs.
The WELL prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary by launching The WELL
Tales conference on-line.
The WELL turns 10.
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