Thursday, April 29, 2010

Long Before Facebook, There Was the Well - WSJ.com

A timely shapshot 

"It was clearly the first social network," says Larry Brilliant, who co-founded the online community.

Dr. Brilliant, a physician and entrepreneur who more recently headed Google Inc.'s philanthropic arm, teamed up in April 1985 with his friend Stewart Brand, a counter-culture impresario known for ventures that include the Whole Earth Catalog. At that time, personal computers were a novelty, communications through dial-up modem were even rarer and most software required typing in arcane text commands.

[…]

The Well provided some of the first evidence that online communities could become as powerful as real-world varieties, says Mr. Kelly, who went on to co-found Wired magazine and was its first executive editor. But Dr. Brilliant, now president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, a social-entrepreneurship organization, laments that Well-style conversations about societal problems remain hard to find on the wider Web.

"We need the Well, or something like it, much more than we ever did before," he says.

Long Before Facebook, There Was the Well - WSJ.com

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