Social Networking 25 Years Ago: CompuServ, Prodigy & The Well
Listening to young people talk about social networking as a new phenomenon is a bit like hearing people talk about a remake of a famous song from my youth as though it was the original version.
If you think “Don’t Stop Believing” was first recorded on the show Glee I’m talking to you. And so it goes with social networking.
Yes, I was doing it when I was a teenager and yes, it was online, too. We were on services called CompuServe and Prodigy. Other people were in the online community called “The Well” (founded in 1985). We connected for the same reasons you do today. We were looking for what I call the “6 C’s of Social Networking” – Communications, connectedness, common experiences, content, commerce & cool experiences (fun!). There were chat rooms, discussion groups, dating, classified ads—you name it.
In in the early 90?s I was in my early 20?s and I programmed on mainframe computers using COBOL, CICS and DB2. We had email, instant messaging, group calendars, discussion boards, etc. It isn’t new stuff. It just works better now and there are more people doin’ it.
The Bridge Between Online Services & The Internet: AOL
And then came AOL. It preceded the WWW. It was an online community like CompuServe and eventually started offering people dial-up access to the Internet for a monthly fee. It became the onramp for newbies. The funny thing about AOL is that while you dialed up to the Internet, the goal of AOL was to keep you locked into their proprietary content and thus earned the classification of “walled garden” because they kept you inside AOL. They had a proprietary browser, their own search engine, their own content, chat rooms, email system, etc.