One of the pioneers of dial-up Internet faces its final log-out, after a roller-coaster ride of corporate acquisitions
After thirty years, the once-leading online community CompuServe has finally been shut down for good, by current owner AOL.
Throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, CompuServe was a premier Internet provider, attracting users to its forums and other services. It was one of the dial-up networks that Bill Gates obsessed about in the early 90s, and along with companies such as AOL helped expand the Web into the popular consciousness.
However, it eventually lost market share to AOL and Prodigy, which undercut its prices. The transition of Internet users from dial-up to broadband also ate away at CompuServe’s subscription base; at its height, the service had supported over 500,000 users online simultaneously.
CompuServe was notable for offering its offering subscribers 9- to 10-digit user IDs, which later became something of a nostalgia item for users who subsequently moved on to more modernised (and word-based) handles.
In early 1998, CompuServe was sold to AOL via a complicated stock transaction in which WorldCom acted as intermediary. AOL acquired the CompuServe Information Service section of the company (that dealt with subscribers), while WorldCom kept the CompuServe Network Services section, which it renamed WorldCom Advanced Networks. WorldCom would later go bankrupt following massive accounting scandals, and return as MCI, which would eventually be purchased by Verizon.
The ISP portion of the company, acquired by AOL continued on its merry way, the CompuServe name still intact. Even now, although CompuServe’s software platform will be shut down, those users who voted to stay along for the ride to this point still have the option of porting their existing CompuServe Classic email addresses over to a new email service, accessible here.
CompuServe Classic is survived by CompuServe 2000, a newer version that AOL has said will continue to operate. AOL itself is said to be in negotiations to split from Time Warner, with which it merged in 2000.