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
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
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: