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CompuServe closes after 30 years

Veteran ISP gets bulleted.

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The granddaddy of the ISP industry, CompuServe, has been closed down by its parent AOL as of 1 July, after 30 years in operation.

AOL closed it down on 30 June is urging remaining CompuServe Classic customers to move on to the company's surviving sub-brand ISP, CompuServe 2000, which continues to operate as usual. Users can convert their classic 9 and 10-digit email addresses to the CompuServe 2000 service.

CompuServe (or CIS) was originally founded way back in 1969 as Compu-Serv Network in Columbus, Ohio as a subsidiary of Golden United Life Insurance.

According to Wikipedia, its original remit was to provide in-house computer processing support to Golden United Life Insurance; and to develop as an independent business in the computer time-sharing industry, by renting time on its PDP-10 mid-range computers during business hours. It was spun off as a separate company in 1975.

It began offering electronic mail capabilities and technical support to commercial customers in 1978, and for many industry veterans it provided them with their first ever online experience. Undoubtedly, its golden years was during the 1980s (where it was used mostly to exchange files electronically) and the early years of the 1990s, where its email and moderated forums proved to be enormously popular with the PC crowd.

Indeed, by 1991, it claimed to have over a half a million users simultaneously online, and by 1995, it topped three million members, the largest online service provider at that time.

However, cracks started to appear when it began competing against newcomers such as AOL, which rapidly gained market share thanks to its intense marketing campaigns and by offering users a flat monthly rate instead of the per-hour online access charged by CompuServe.

AOL acquired CompuServe in 1997, and for a time the company was preserved as a separate service but was badly neglected by its parent company. As the world wide web grew in popularity, many organisations closed their CompuServe customer support forums and instead began offering customer support via their own websites.

And in an ironic twist, AOL is now itself facing an uncertain future as its subscription base has been steadily declining. In 2006 the UK ISP business of AOL was sold off to the Carphone Warehouse.


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