The WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link), an internet community that was formed 27 years ago, has seen its staff laid-off and is now up for sale. The WELL began its life as a pay-for Bulletin Board System (BBS) in 1985 and is now a subscription-based forum that also offers email services. After changing hands in the earlier nineties, It was purchased by Salon in 1999, which has owned it since. After a failed attempt to sell the site in 2005, Salon announced in a filing yesterday that it recently "laid off The WELL staff and began to look for a buyer for the property."
Although The WELL has never been a particularly high-traffic site, it was described as "the world's most influential online community" by Wired magazine in 1997 and still has 2,693 members (a very similar number to that quoted by a 1989 New York Times article on the BBS service). Most members pay between $100-$150 per year for a place in the community. It counts authors, journalists, and academics among its ranks, and its members have formed popular sites like Craigslist and organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Although mostly private, certain conferences (The WELL's name for what most would describe as forums) are visible to the public. Time will tell if Salon is successful in its latest attempt to sell the site, and whether any potential buyer would have an interest in keeping The WELL running.