Users buy the WELL… talk about dedication!
Just five days ago, on September 20th 2012, it was announced that The Well Group had officially taken over ownership of the WELL community and domaine.
For those of you who are not geeky enough to have ever heard of The WELL, I can tell you that it is a web community established waaaay back in 1985 (!) by founder Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant. Members of the WELL take part in discussions on what ever topic they fancy in different forums. Members also have an email system, and apparently there are web sites within the WELL as well.
The WELL has until recently been owned by the Salon Media Group, but when they put the community up for sale the members rallied together and bought the WELL.
I don’t really know that much about the WELL, but I’m reading the book The Virtual Community by Howard Rheingold. Rheingold became an active – and very enthusiastic – member of The WELL in 1985, and decided to write a book about his encounters and experiences with the community. This is the book I am now reading.
I have heard about the WELL several times but I have never really looked into it, and to be honest I actually thought it closed down years ago. But it is still “alive”, even though the number of users can’t compete with todays’ giants like facebook, Pinterest or Instagram. According to Wikipedia the WELL had 2693 members as of June 2012. As oppose to todays’ social media the WELL is not centered around the person, but around a topic.
I’m fascinated by the WELL for three reasons:
First of all it’s very impressive that it has managed to survive for 27 years! Membership numbers might be down, but still…
Second it’s all about conversations and coming together around common areas of interest. It’s not about me, me, me and my funny photos, but about real conversations and exchange of opinions and experiences. And as far as I can tell from the few pages open to non-members; it’s all text based. No fancy photos or cool designs.
Finally I’m impressed with the fact that the users bought the community. Talk about being dedicated! These days it seems like everybody is struggling to figuring out a business model for the web – I guess this story shows that if you give users what they need they won’t have a problem paying. Oh and by the way you have to pay to become a member of the WELL.
PS. My knowledge of the WELL is very limited (and new). Please let me know if there is something I have completely misunderstood!