In 2001 I edited and published an excellent book by journalist Katie Hafner, The Well: A Story of Love, Death & Real Life in the Seminal Online Community, a narrative and oral history, with verbatim posts and original discussions and exchanges written by founding members of the very first online community. Reading Katie’s book is like observing the birth of the Internet, and even social media, before the latter was even a glimmer in anyone’s eye. The manuscript grew out of a 1997 cover story on The Well that Katie had done for Wired magazine. I’ve read tonight in the NY Times that Salon.com, which had acquired The Well in the late 90s, has now sold The Well to an investment group made up some of its current members.
Among The Well’s founding members were such countercultural stalwarts as Stewart Brand, Howard Rheingold, John Perry Barlow, Larry Brilliant, Gail Williams, and a host of unsung but pivotal Internet pioneers. These people are all characters in Katie Hafner’s sleek and moving book. I admire The Well’s legacy and hope its new owner-members make something special of it once again.