Well for sale

The Well, venerable “virtual community” (that’s what we had before blogs, you whippersnappers), is for sale. I’ve had an account on the Well for eleven years this month, so this is of some interest to me. Salon has been a great corporate parent (many Salon staffers are longtime Well members), but the ups and downs of their pennystock life make everyone uncomfortable.

Who knows what will happen – perhaps members will chip in and form a co-op. I’ve got, like, $432 in my Paypal account… At least we’re past the bubble years, when some flash-in-the-pan internet company would have bought it, with a wave of press releases followed by an attempt to “monetize the userbase” or something.

For more, see Declan McCullagh’s article. (Declan’s an old Well member too.)

The Well was the creation of Stewart Brand, publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, who squirreled away the original VAX server in a corner of Whole Earth’s decrepit offices in Sausalito, Calif. Before long, The Well’s conferences were attracting luminaries like Kevin Kelly (a Wired Magazine editor), Mitchell Kapor (the founder of Lotus Development), and science fiction author Bruce Sterling.

In a discussion this week, members worried about The Well’s future and speculated about forming a nonprofit organization that would purchase the online service. Others suggested, cheekily, that it be placed on Craigslist with a description of “Early Internet BBS…barely used.”