WELL Historical Timeline: The First Ten Years

Created by Ron Pernick with assistance from Cliff Figallo and Gail Ann
Williams for the Anniversary in 1995.


 1985 on The WELL
 * February
 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.
 * February-April
 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.
 * March
 The WELL presented its first users with the sole disclaimer:  "You Own Your
 Own Words."
 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.
 * April
 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.
 * June
 The WELL makes USENET news groups available to its customers and begins
 exchanging electronic mail with other networked computes around the world.
 * December
 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:
 * February
 The WELL incorporates as a company.
 * February
 Hourly prices are raised to $3 per hour from $2 per hour.
 * April
 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.
 * July
 The True Confessions conference is begun.  WELL members are encouraged to
 tell stories from their past and find out about each other.
 * August
 Cliff Figallo replaces Matthew McClure as director.
 * September
 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.)
 * October
 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
 the community.
 * December
 Packet switched to tymnet.

 1987 on the Well:
 * July
 The WELL reaches 2,000 registered members.
 * July
 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.
 * August
 The WELL takes its Office Party to the beach for the first time.
 * November
 "Off-line," the WELL's occasional printed newsletter, is sent out for the
 first time.
 * December
 For the first month, the WELL's revenues exceed expenses, achieving

 1988 on the Well:
 * May
 The first wedding between WELL beings takes place-event is celebrated on-line.
 * July
 The WELL is featured in its first New York Times article.
 * September
 Packet switched to Compuserve Packet Network (CPN) from tymnet.
 * November
 The WELL receives the Media Alliance Meritorious Achievement Award for
 Community Journalism.

 1989 on the Well:
 * February
 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.
 * April
 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.
 * October
 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.
 * November
 The WELL's computer software license is upgraded to handle up to 64
 simultaneous users.

 1990 on the WELL:
 * February
 ECHO (East Coast Hang Out) goes on-line in New York City.  WELL staff and
 customers help create the early vision.
 * March
 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.
 * May
 The first funeral is held for a member of the WELL community, Blair Newman.
 * July
 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.
 * July
 The WELL reaches 5,000-registered members.
 * November
 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
 * December
 The WELL receives the Best On-line Publication award from the Computer
 Press Association.

 1991 on the WELL:
 * April
 Rosewood Stone Group purchases NETI's half ownership in the WELL.
 * August
 The WELL has its first chili cook-off, which becomes a yearly event.
 Members travel cross-country to compete.
 * December

 Gail Ann Williams replaces John Coate as Conferencing Manager.

 1992 on the WELL:
 * January
 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.
 * February
 The WELL has another major computer upgrade, from a Balance to Symmetry 
 and SUN.
 * July
 Maurice Weitman replaces Cliff Figallo as Director.
 * August
 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.
 * December
 The WELL receives the Best On-line System award from Dvorak/Zoom

 1993 on the WELL:
 * January
 Howard Rheingold, a premier member of the WELL community, publishes The
 Virtual Community, a book the focuses on The WELL and other on-line
 * November
 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:
 * January
 Bruce Katz buys the second half of The WELL from The Point Foundation,
 acquiring full ownership.
 * July
 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.  
 * August
 The WELL reaches 10,000 registered members.
 The WELL begins testing PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) access over
 high-speed modems and ISDN lines.
 * September
 Bruce Katz, CEO,  replaces Maurice Weitman as director.
 * November
 System storage space more than doubles to 30 GBs.
 * December
 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:
 * January
 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.
 * February
 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.
 * March
 The WELL prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary by launching The WELL
 Tales conference on-line.  
 * April
 The WELL turns 10.

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