A conferencing system based in the San Francisco Bay Area. WELL is an acronym for "Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link" (yes, they spelled it "'Lectronic", in order to get the acronym right).
No longer exists in its original form, but it has evolved into a thriving Web community, which can be found at http://www.well.com/.
Moved from WellCommunity
One of the first (1985) and most influential virtual communities. Started by StewartBrand and LarryBrilliant? and populated by many important people like HowardRheingold. Subject of Howard's book "The Virtual Community". Also, scene of a the TheGratefulDead community.
The preceding paragraph used to give the date of the WELL's founding as 1984, but the WELL's own "About the WELL" web page (at http://www.well.com/aboutwell.html) says 1985, so I'm assuming that's correct. If you change it back, please explain. Thanks!
See also http://www.usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?TheWell
Chinet existed prior to The Well (1982). http://www.usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?BulletinBoardSystem.
Hey, Ward Christensen's Chicago BBS (312 545-8086) was up in 1978! I remember, because I used to dial in at 300 baud. Ahh, those were the days...getting that Hayes Micromodem in the trusty ol' Apple II to dial up and connect -- 300, n, 8, 1. [Ward designed the XMODEM protocol.]
Howard Rheingold's book "The Virtual Community" (and more) can be found on his web page at http://www.rheingold.com.
Does anyone besides me see a parallel between TheWell (at least as it used to be; don't know about its current form) and WardsWiki? A gathering place for usually intelligent and sometimes heated discussion, frequented by people who are geeky enough to be able to figure out how to use the medium? An electronic community with its own culture (and its passionate defenders thereof)? etc...?