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Technology

Online Pioneer the Well Is Bought by Salon.com

April 08, 1999|GREG MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Well, a small Bay Area company that pioneered the now-widespread concept of online discussion communities, has been acquired by Salon.com, a leading Internet magazine.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Salon purchased the Sausalito-based company from Rosewood Stone Group, an investment firm headed by Bruce Katz, the founder of Rockport Shoes.

Salon executives said no significant changes are in store for the Well, which was founded in 1985 by Whole Earth Catalog Publisher Stewart Brand and technologist Larry Brilliant.

"The Well has its own successful chemistry," said Scott Rosenberg, vice president of site development at San Francisco-based Salon. "We don't want to undermine that."

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Well was one of the most influential online communities, an electronic gathering post acclaimed for the breadth and intelligence of its discussion groups.

It continues to have a loyal following, but the privately held firm has not played such a central role since the Internet exploded in popularity, fueling the growth of giant companies such as America Online Inc. and Yahoo Corp. with communities of their own.

The Well, unlike those companies, depends not on advertising revenue but on subscription fees of $10 to $15 per month.

The company's current subscriber base of 7,000 is down from a peak of 11,000 several years ago. The Well has eight employees.

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