CompuServe Forums, RIP

Enlarge/ CompuServe brought millions of Americans "online" for the first time—before AOL and the Internet stomped it down. Now AOL is killing off CompuServe's venerable forums.CompuServe

In the 1980s and early 1990s, before America Online CDs clogged America's mailboxes and the word "Internet" had yet to be spoken by nearly anyone outside the tech world, CompuServe was the Internet for most people. Even as the Internet rose into more general awareness in 1994, CompuServe—aka CompuServe Information Service—was still how a significant majority of people in the US got "online." But AOL's move to a monthly subscription model instead of metered dial-up time in 1996 (plus something called the World Wide Web) was a death blow to CompuServe's dial-up business. WorldCom bought CompuServe's networks, and the information service ended up in the hands of AOL in 1998.

Yet somehow, CompuServe's Forums, the venerable discussion platform of the dial-up era, have lived on—until now. As AOL and Yahoo become Oath, a Verizon Company, the last vestiges of CompuServe are finally being extinguished, Fast Company's Harry McCracken (one of the last CompuServe forum users on Earth) reports.

In an e-mail message, the CompuServe team at AOL announced that CompuServe Forums—a somehow still-living archive of online discussions that largely predates even some of the cruftiest of Usenet groups—would be removed on December 15. "For more than two decades, the CompuServe Forums paved the way for a wide variety of topics," the e-mail stated, "and we appreciate all of the participation and comments you have provided over the years."

CompuServe's usury rates of as much as $30 per hour to connect in the early 1980s kept me away from the service in my early computing days—I preferred to dial into BBS systems, even when the long-distance bills came close to the gradually declining cost of CompuServe connectivity. I periodically would cave in and get an account to transfer some files, then cancel out when my trial usage credit ran out. The forums were sources of nuggets of knowledge, but generally those nuggets would require digging through massive amounts of know-nothing replies (and spending up precious dial-up time) to find.

But newspapers around the country believed with all their might that CompuServe would be the answer to making online news work. And even after I had moved to an actual Internet e-mail account at my own domain name, many of my friends and family were only reachable through their pre-generated octal numeric user IDs (7xxxx,

Don't worry, CompuServe forum fans: you can always go to Google Groups.


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