Compuserve (was Re: digital cameras)

From: John Foust <>
Date: Thu Jul 15 13:47:51 1999

At 10:48 AM 7/15/99 -0400, Max Eskin wrote:
>Speaking of Compuserve, what is its history? I'd like to know how it came
>to be so popular for technical support bulletin boards.

A good question. The answers may give you insights into why the
Web has succeeded and AOL rose to the top and why Compuserve isn't.

Before the web, in the late 80s and early 90s, Compuserve (CIS) was a
well-run national dial-up network. Apart from e-mail (with Net gateways)
and chat, Compuserve had forums for special interests. These arose
as necessary, but it wasn't as easy publishing a web page. You had
to have the cooperation and contractual agreements with Compuserve,
and then they'd clone their forum software for your new forum.

Forum contract holders (aka syops) got a royalty based on the amount
of time that users were spending in their area. Contract holders
were also given a handful of "free flags" to be given out at their
discretion. This allowed you to give someone free access in your
forum or even the entire CIS system. If CIS was a local call, you'd
pay nothing. This was a tremendous value that easily amounted to
several hundred dollars a month. However, you can bet the contract
holder who gave you your flag was sure to notice that you were
participating in their forum - helping newbies, providing advice,
serving as a reference book, playing nice and being a personality.

The largest forums could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars
a year for the contract holder. They ran them like a business with
staff and offices.

Soon this spun off to third-party support. Some forums would split
off a vendor forum. The vendors got a free flag to give online
support. The sysop made money because people would visit more often.
Compuserve made money.

Soon some companies opened their own forums.
Received on Thu Jul 15 1999 - 13:47:51 BST

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