CompuServe Classic Shut Down for Good

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-07-07 Print this article Print

After three decades, current owner AOL decides to pull the plug on CompuServe Classic, formerly one of the Internet's premier service providers. Although its forums and other services once attracted hundreds of thousands of users, CompuServe eventually lost ground to services such as AOL and as its subscriber base migrated from dial-up services to broadband. AOL plans to port CompuServe's e-mail subscribers to a new system.

After 30 years, CompuServe Classic was finally shut down for good by 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 modernized (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, while WorldCom kept the CompuServe Network Services section, which it renamed WorldCom Advanced Networks. WorldCom would later go bankrupt and return as MCI, which would eventually be purchased by Verizon.

The portion of the company acquired by AOL continued on its merry way, the CompuServe name still intact. Although CompuServe's software platform will be shut down, those users who voted to stay along for the ride to this point now have the option of porting their existing CompuServe Classic e-mail addresses over to a new e-mail 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.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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