The WELL, the online community which started out life more than 20 years ago as the Whole Earth Lectronic Link, has been sold to a company founded by some of its long-time users. It has had many owners in its storied history, but its most recent owner, Salon, is the first public company to own the WELL, which raised numerous questions about whether Salon could legally sell the site to the users without trying to realize greater value for its shareholders, including through the sale of the well.com domain name.
Many WELL users have pledged money for a user buyout, and a group of them negotiated with Salon to make the purchase.
I have been a WELL user since the early 1990s, and have enormous affection and respect for the community there. Though I don't often use it actively any longer, my experiences there were formative to my understanding of the online world. Congratulations to the Well Group folks for navigating these waters. Below the jump I've included the press-release.
Salon Media Group Sells The WELL to The Well Group: First Time Online Business Taken Private by Users of the Business Itself
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 20, 2012 -- Salon Media Group (SLNM.PK) and The Well Group, Inc. today jointly announced that The WELL is now under the ownership of The Well Group, Inc., a private investment group composed of long-time WELL members.
The Well Group, Inc. consists entirely of long-time WELL users with an average tenure exceeding 20 years. The purchase marks the first major online business taken private by users of the business itself.
The WELL represents one of the earliest platforms for online dialogue, supporting lively debates and conversations since its founding in 1985. The Well Group, Inc. is excited to take over the management of The WELL, and continue offering the valuable products and services that subscribers have come to expect over the years.
"The WELL welcomes the opportunity to support its existing base and extends an invitation to like-minded individuals looking for a social network that puts the free exchange of ideas at the forefront," explained Earl Crabb, CEO of The Well Group, Inc. "We are extremely grateful to Salon Media Group for working with us to make this transition a success."
"In a world where online platforms come and go, this is a testament to the dedication of a truly remarkable community," explained Cindy Jeffers, CEO of Salon Media Group. "As a true pioneer of the digital age, and a forerunner of today's ubiquitous social networks, The WELL has played a central role in
the origin of countless creative endeavors and cultural movements. We wish The WELL countless more under their new management."
About The WELL
Launched in 1985 by "Whole Earth Catalog" founder Stewart Brand and entrepreneur/philanthropist Larry Brilliant, The WELL attracted an active membership, many well known in the worlds of technology, music, and publishing.
Among notable characteristics of the vibrant online community is the concept of YOYOW (You Own Your Own Words), a phrase introduced by Stewart Brand to reflect the fact that members are not allowed to be anonymous and must take responsibility for messages posted and, reciprocally, no one may use those words without specific permission.
The WELL maintains profitability entirely through member subscriptions with no advertising. Conversations on The WELL take place in both public and private conferences, with topics ranging from the political to the very personal. Today, The WELL thrives as a raucous workshop for democracy and discussion, with a transparency and emphasis on individual responsibility consistently creating an environment that rewards original thought and eventual mutual respect.
Additional background information can be found at: http://www.well.com/media.html
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.