Subsidiary of AOL
Industry Internet & communications
Founded 1969; 48 years ago (1969) (as Compu-Serv Network, Inc.)
Headquarters Columbus, Ohio, United States
Products online services, ISP

CompuServe (CompuServe Information Service, also known by its acronym CIS) was the first major commercial online service provider in the United States. It dominated the field during the 1980s and remained a major influence through the mid-1990s. At its peak in the early 1990s, CIS was known for its online chat system, message forums covering a variety of topics, extensive software libraries for most computer platforms, and a series of popular online games, notably MegaWars III and Island of Kesmai. They are also known for their introduction of the GIF format for pictures, and CIS was a very popular GIF exchange mechanism.

AOL's entry into the PC market in 1991 marked the beginning of the end for CIS. AOL used a monthly subscription instead of hourly rates, so for active users it was much less expensive. AOL also used a GUI-based client, and while such systems existed for CIS, they only supported a subset of the system's functionality and were purchased separately. In response, CIS lowered their hourly rates on several occasions. The number of users grew, peaking at 3 million in April 1995. By this point AOL had over 20 million users in the United States alone, but this was off their peak of 27 million, due to customers leaving for lower-cost offerings. CIS finally introduced monthly pricing in late 1997, but by that time the number of users leaving all online services for dialup Internet service providers was reaching a crescendo.

In 1997, CIS's parent company, H&R Block, announced its desire to sell the company. A complex deal was worked out with WorldCom acting as a broker, resulting in CIS being sold to AOL. While continuing the original service, renamed CompuServe Classic, AOL also used the CompuServe brand for several low-cost offerings; CompuServe 2000 was a rebranded AOL client with separate services, while CompuServe Dialer was a low-cost dialup ISP. CompuServe Classic shut down in 2009, CompuServe 2000 followed suit in 2011. CompuServe Dialer continues to operate as a Web portal.



CompuServe was founded in 1969 as Compu-Serv Network, Inc. (the earliest advertising shows the name with initial caps) in Columbus, Ohio, as a subsidiary of Golden United Life Insurance. While Jeffrey Wilkins, the son-in-law of Golden United founder Harry Gard, Sr., is widely credited as the first president of CompuServe, the initial president was actually Dr. John R. Goltz.[1] Goltz and Wilkins were both graduate students in electrical engineering at the University of Arizona. Early employees also recruited from the University of Arizona included Sandy Trevor (inventor of the CompuServe CB Simulator chat system), Doug Chinnock, and Larry Shelley. Wilkins replaced Goltz as CEO within the first year of operation.

The company objectives were twofold: 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 midrange computers during business hours. It was spun off as a separate company in 1975, trading on the NASDAQ under the symbol CMPU.

Concurrently, the company recruited executives who shifted the focus from offering time-sharing services, in which customers wrote their own applications, to one that was focused on packaged applications. The first of these new executives was Robert Tillson, who left Service Bureau Corporation (then a subsidiary of Control Data Corporation, but originally formed as a division of IBM) to become CompuServe's Executive Vice President of Marketing. He then recruited Charles McCall (who followed Jeff Wilkins as CEO, and later became CEO of medical information firm HBO & Co.), Maury Cox (who became CEO after the departure of McCall), and Robert Massey (who followed Cox as CEO). Barry Berkov was recruited from Xerox to head product development and marketing.

In 1977, CompuServe's board changed the company's name to CompuServe Incorporated. In 1980, H&R Block acquired CompuServe.


The original 1969 dial-up technology was fairly simple--the local phone number in Cleveland, for example, was a line connected to a time-division multiplexer that connected via a leased line to a matched multiplexer in Columbus that was connected to a time-sharing host system. In the earliest buildups, each line terminated on a single machine at CompuServe's host, so different numbers had to be used to reach different computers.

Later, the central multiplexers in Columbus were replaced with PDP-8 minicomputers, and the PDP-8s were connected to a DEC PDP-15 minicomputer that acted as switches so a phone number was not tied to a particular destination host. Finally, CompuServe developed its own packet switching network, implemented on DEC PDP-11 minicomputers acting as network nodes that were installed throughout the US (and later, in other countries) and interconnected. Over time, the CompuServe network evolved into a complicated multi-tiered network incorporating Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), Frame relay (FR), Internet Protocol (IP) and X.25 technologies.

In 1981, The Times explained CompuServe's technology in one sentence:

CompuServe is offering a video-text-like service permitting personal computer users to retrieve software from the mainframe computer over telephone lines.[2]

CompuServe was also a world leader in other commercial services. One of these was the Financial Services group, which collected and consolidated financial data from myriad data feeds, including CompuStat, Disclosure, I/B/E/S as well as the price/quote feeds from the major exchanges. CompuServe developed extensive screening and reporting tools that were used by many investment banks on Wall Street.


The residential information service had been developed almost clandestinely, in 1978, and marketed as MicroNET through Radio Shack. Many within the company did not favor the project; it was called schlock time-sharing by the commercial time-sharing sales force. It was allowed to exist initially because home users accessed the computers during evening hours, when the CompuServe computers were otherwise idle.

As it became evident that it would be a hit, CompuServe dropped the MicroNET name in favor of their own. CompuServe's origin was approximately concurrent with that of The Source. Both services were operating in early 1979, being the first online services. MicroNet was made popular through the Issue 2 of Commodore Disk User, which included programs on how to connect and run MicroNet programs.

By the mid-1980s CompuServe was one of the largest information and networking services companies in existence, and it was the largest consumer information service in the world. It operated commercial branches in more than 30 US cities, selling primarily network services to major corporations throughout the United States. Consumer accounts could be bought in most computer stores (a box with an instruction manual and a trial account login) and awareness of this service was extremely high. By 1987, the consumer side would be 50% of CompuServe revenues. The service continued to improve in terms of user interface and offerings, and in 1989 CompuServe purchased and dismantled one of its main competitors, The Source.

The corporate culture was entrepreneurial, encouraging "skunkworks projects". Alexander "Sandy" Trevor secluded himself for a weekend, writing the "CB Simulator", a chat system that soon became one of CIS's most popular features. Instead of hiring employees to manage the forums, they contracted with sysops, who received compensation based on the success of their own forum's boards, libraries, and chat areas.[3]


In July 1980, working with The Associated Press, CompuServe began hosting text versions of the Columbus Dispatch. The New York Times, Virginian-Pilot and Ledger Star, The Washington Post, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, and Los Angeles Times were added in 1981 to what became known as the CompuServe Experiment. Additional newspapers followed, bringing the total number of different newspapers available to subscribers to eleven.[4]

According to an editor involved in the project, accessing the articles in these newspapers made up 5% of CompuServe's traffic. Reading an entire newspaper using this method was impractical, however. The text of a $0.20 print edition newspaper would take two to six hours to download at a cost of $5 per hour (after 6 p.m.).[4][5]

Selling connectivity

Another major unit of CompuServe, the CompuServe Network Services, was formed in 1982 to generate revenue by selling connectivity on the nationwide packet network CompuServe had built to support its time-sharing service. CompuServe designed and manufactured its own network processors, based on the DEC PDP-11, and wrote all the software that ran in the network. Often (and erroneously) called an X.25 network, the CompuServe network implemented a mixture of standardized and proprietary layers throughout the network.

One of the proprietary layers was called Adaptive Routing.[6] The Adaptive Routing system implemented two powerful features. One is that the network operated entirely in a self-discovery mode. When a new switch was added to the network by connecting it to a neighbor via a leased telephone circuit, the new switch was discovered and absorbed into the network without explicit configuration. To change the network configuration, all that was needed was to add or remove connections, and the network would automatically reconfigure. The second feature implemented by Adaptive Routing was often talked about in network engineering circles, but was implemented only by CNS - establishing connection paths on the basis of real-time performance measurements. As one circuit became busy, traffic was diverted to alternative paths to prevent overloading and poor performance for users.

While the CNS network was not itself based on the X.25 protocol, the network presented a standard X.25 interface to the outside world, providing dialup connectivity to corporate hosts, and allowing CompuServe to form alliances with private networks Tymnet and Telenet, among others. This gave CompuServe the largest selection of local dial-up phone connections in the world, in an era when network usage charges were expensive, but still lower than long distance charges. Other networks permitted CompuServe access to still more locations, including international locations, usually with substantial connect-time surcharges. It was common in the early 1980s to pay a $30-per-hour charge to connect to CompuServe, which at the time cost $5 to $6 per hour before factoring in the connect-time surcharges. This resulted in the company being nicknamed CompuSpend, Compu$erve or CI$.

CNS has been the primary supplier of dial-up communications for credit-card authorizations for more than 20 years, a competence developed through its long relationship with Visa International. At the peak of this line of business, CompuServe carried millions of authorization transactions each month, representing several billion dollars of consumer purchase transactions. For many businesses an always-on connection was an extravagance, and a dialup option made better sense. Today this service remains in operation, deeply embedded within Verizon (see below). There are no other competitors remaining in this market.

The company was notable for introducing a number of online services to personal computer users. CompuServe began offering electronic mail capabilities and technical support to commercial customers in 1978 under the name Infoplex, and was also a pioneer in the real-time chat market with its CB Simulator service introduced in 1980. CompuServe also introduced a number of online games.

File transfers

Around 1981, CompuServe introduced its CompuServe B protocol, a file-transfer protocol, allowing users to send files to each other. This was later expanded to the higher-performance B+ version, intended for downloads from CIS itself. Although the B+ protocol was not widely supported by other software, it was used by default for some time on CIS itself. The B+ protocol was later extended to include the Host-Micro Interface (HMI), a mechanism for communicating commands and transaction requests to a server application running on the mainframes. HMI could be used by "front end" client software to present a GUI-based interface to CIS, without having to use the error-prone CLI to route commands.

CompuServe began to expand its reach outside the United States. It entered the international arena in Japan in 1986 with Fujitsu and Nissho Iwai, and developed a Japanese-language version of CompuServe called NIFTY-Serve in 1989. In 1993, CompuServe Hong Kong was launched in a joint venture with Hutchison Telecom and was able to acquire 50,000 customers before the dialup ISP frenzy. Between 1994 and 1995 Fujitsu and CompuServe co-developed WorldsAway, an interactive virtual world. As of 2014 the original world that launched on CompuServe in 1995, known as the Dreamscape, is still operating.

In the late 1980s, it was possible to log on to CompuServe via worldwide X.25 packet switching networks, which bridged onto CompuServe's existing US-based network. Gradually it introduced its own direct dialup access network in many countries, a more economical solution. With its network expansion, CompuServe also extended the marketing of its commercial services, opening branches in London and Munich.


CompuServe was the first online service to offer Internet connectivity, albeit limited access, as early as 1989[7] when it connected its proprietary e-mail service to allow incoming and outgoing messages to be exchanged with Internet-based e-mail addresses.

In the early 1990s, CompuServe was enormously popular, with hundreds of thousands of users visiting its thousands of moderated Forums, forerunners to the endless variety of discussion sites on the Web today. (Like the Web, many Forums were managed by independent producers who then administered the Forum and recruited moderators, called "sysops".) Among these were many in which hardware and software companies offered customer support. This broadened the audience from primarily business users to the technical "geek" crowd, some of whom migrated over from Byte Magazine's Bix online service.

Over time, CompuServe also attracted the general public with a wide spectrum of Forums devoted to interests such as show business, including Entertainment Drive, CompuServe's sole content investment, current events, sports, politics, aviation, and more. In 1992, CompuServe and Eliot Stein's ShowBiz Forum hosted the industry's first electronic movie press kit, for the Universal computer-themed feature film Sneakers; the film's director, Phil Alden Robinson, participated in online chats with ShowBiz Forum members to promote the picture.[8]

Unlike AOL (and before they merged), in the early 1990s CompuServe aggressively recruited membership even from peripheral groups which had the potential to attract followings, offering moderators free access to the network as an incentive. One such group was Military Brats of America, an organization of individuals who were raised in the US military. MBA received an unsolicited invitation to join CompuServe at no cost, including universal free access for its founder. CompuServe set up a dedicated bulletin board for MBA which became central to the group's daily operation. To access the discussions, MBA members were required to join the network as paying customers. This was in contrast to AOL, which repeatedly denied MBA a dedicated bulletin board, and offered no free access to any MBA member. As a workaround, MBA was able to establish a subsidiary bulletin board within the Vietnam Veterans of America AOL portal, thereby piggybacking with a more established group which did enjoy preferred AOL treatment. In that way, MBA had a jury-rigged presence on the AOL service, but no preferential benefits. All MBA members, including the group's leader, paid full AOL membership rates to access the VVA/MBA AOL community.[]

In 1992, CompuServe hosted the first known WYSIWYG e-mail content and forum posts.[9] Fonts, colors and emoticons were encoded into 7-bit text-based messages via the third party product NavCIS (Dvorak Development) running on DOS and Windows 3.1 or Windows 95[10] operating systems. NavCIS included features for offline work, similar to offline readers used with Bulletin board systems, allowing users to connect to the service and exchange new mail and forum content in a largely automated fashion. Once the "run" was complete, the user edited their messages locally in offline mode. The system also allowed interactive navigation of the system to support services like the chat system. Many of these services remained text based.

CompuServe later introduced CompuServe Information Manager (CIM) to compete more directly with AOL. Unlike Navigator, CIM was tuned for online work, and used a point-and-click interface very similar to AOLs. Later versions interacted with the hosts using the HMI communications protocol. For some areas of the service which did not support HMI, the older text-based interface could be used. WinCIM also allowed caching of forum messages, news articles and e-mail, so that reading and posting could be performed off-line, without incurring hourly connect costs. Previously, this was a luxury of the NavCIS, AutoSIG and TapCIS applications for power users.

One of the big advantages of CIS over the Internet was that the users could purchase services and software from other CompuServe members using their CompuServe account.

During the early 1990s the hourly rate fell from over $10 an hour to $1.95 an hour. In March 1992, it launched online signups with credit card based payments and a desktop application to connect online and check emails. In April 1995, CompuServe topped three million members, still the largest online service provider, and launched its NetLauncher service, providing WWW access capability via the Spry Mosaic browser. AOL, however, introduced a far cheaper flat-rate, unlimited-time, advertisement-supported price plan in the US to compete with CompuServe's hourly charges. In conjunction with AOL's marketing campaigns, this caused a significant loss of customers until CompuServe responded with a similar plan of its own at $24.95 per month in late 1997.[11][12]

As the World Wide Web grew in popularity with the general public, company after company closed their once-busy CompuServe customer support forums to offer customer support to a larger audience directly through company websites, an area which the CompuServe forums of the time could not address because they had not yet introduced universal WWW access.

In 1992 CompuServe acquired Mark Cuban's company, MicroSolutions.

In 1997 CompuServe began converting its vaunted forums from its proprietary Host-Micro Interface (HMI) to HTML web standards.[13]

CompuServe UK

Before the widespread adoption of the Internet and World Wide Web, the United Kingdom's first national major-brands online shopping service was developed by the UK arm of CompuServe/CIS as part of its proprietary closed-system collection of consumer services.

Andrew Gray was the man who set up CompuServe UK's operations as the European arm of the US company back in the late 1980s and later became the company's European general manager, while David Gilroy was CompuServe's UK director of customer services. The service continued to grow and offered technical support managed by Suzanne Gautier and sales managed by Colin Campbell.[14]

The service was proposed by Paul Stanfield, an independent business-to-consumer electronic commerce consultant, to Martin Turner, Product Marketing Director for CIS UK, in August 1994. Turner agreed and the project started in September with rapid market research, product development and sales of online space to major UK retail and catalogue companies. These included WH Smith, Tesco, Virgin/Our Price, Great Universal Stores/GUS, Interflora, Dixons Retail, Past Times, PC World (retailer) and Innovations.[15][16]

The service launched on Thursday 27 April 1995 with Paul Stanfield's purchase of a book from the WH Smith shop. This was a repeat of the first formal test of the service on 9 February 1995, which included secure payment and subsequent fulfilment of the order by Royal Mail postal delivery. Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), the UK's industry association for e-retailing, believes that the UK's first national shopping service secure online transaction was the purchase of a WH Smith book from the CompuServe centre.[17][18]

Approximately 1,000,000 UK customers had access to the shops at that time and it was British retailers' first major exposure to the medium. Other retailers joined the service soon after and included Sainsbury's Wine and Jaguar Cars (branded lifestyle goods).

CompuServe UK commissioned writer Sue Schofield to produce a 'retail' pack including a new UK CompuServe Book[19] and a free CD-ROM containing the CIS software to access the service.

CompuServe, with its closed private network system, was slow to react to the rapid development of the open World Wide Web and it was not long before major UK retailers started to develop their own web sites independently of CompuServe.

User IDs and e-mail addresses

The original CompuServe user IDs consisted of seven octal digits in the form 7xxxx,xx - a legacy of PDP-10 architecture - (later eight and nine octal digits in the form 7xxxx,xxx[20] and 7xxxx,xxxx and finally ten octal digits in the form 1xxxxx,xxxx) that were generated in advance and issued on printed "Snap Paks".

From 1989, CompuServe users had email access to the Internet, using their user ID in the form - where the comma in the original ID was replaced with a period. In 1996, users were allowed to create an alias for their Internet e-mail address, which could also be used for a personal web page; the longest-term members were allowed first choice of the new addresses. In 1998, users were offered the option of switching their mailbox to a newer system that provided POP3 access via the Internet, so that any Internet mail program could be used. Current CompuServe email addresses look like for users of the CompuServe 2000 service.

Custom portals

CompuServe has a long history offering a custom portal of the CompuServe Information Service to the airline industry. Beginning in the 1970s, CompuServe offered a customized version of its service that allows pilots and flight attendants to bid for flight schedules with their airline.[21] CompuServe offered customized solutions to other industries as well, including a service called CompuServe for Lawyers.[22]

Market share

Long the largest online service provider, by 1987 CompuServe had 380,000 subscribers, compared to 320,000 at the Dow Jones News/Retrieval, 80,000 at The Source, and 70,000 at GEnie.[23]

Technology and law

One popular use of CompuServe in the 1980s was file exchange, particularly pictures. Indeed, in 1985 it hosted perhaps the first online comic in the world, Witches and Stitches. CompuServe introduced a simple black-and-white image format known as RLE (run-length-encoding) to standardize the images so they could be shared among different microcomputer platforms. With the introduction of more powerful machines, universally supporting color, CompuServe introduced the much more capable GIF format, invented by Steve Wilhite. GIF went on to become the de facto standard for 8-bit images on the Internet in the early and mid-1990s.

CompuServe, and its outside telecommunications attorney, Randy May, led the appeals before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to exempt data networks from having to pay the Common Carrier Access Charge (CCAC) that was levied by the telephone Local Exchange Carriers (primarily the Baby Bell companies) on long distance carriers. The primary argument was that data networking was a brand new industry, and the country would be better served by not exposing this important new industry to the aberrations of the voice telephone economics (the CCAC is the mechanism used to subsidize the cost of local telephone service from long distance revenue). The FCC agreed with CompuServe's position, and the consequence is that all dial-up networking in the United States, whether on private networks or the public Internet, is much less expensive than it otherwise would have been.

In 1991, CompuServe was sued for defamation in one of the early cases testing the application of traditional law on the Internet in Cubby v. CompuServe. Although defamatory content was posted on one of its forums, CompuServe was not liable for this content because it was unaware of the content and did not exercise editorial control over the forum.

In 1995, CompuServe blocked access to sex-oriented newsgroups after being pressured by Bavarian prosecutors. In 1997, after CompuServe reopened the newsfeeds, Felix Somm, the former managing director for CompuServe Germany, was charged with violating German child pornography laws because of the material CompuServe's network was carrying into Germany. He was convicted and sentenced to two years' probation on May 28, 1998.[24][25] He was cleared on appeal on November 17, 1999.[26][27] The requirement for censorship in Germany led some German members to leave the service.


The WOW! logo

In 1996, CEO Maury Cox began the WOW! initiative within CompuServe. The objective was to create a new generation of home information services that could be built on the revenue models brought to the market by AOL and to offer users a new rich visual experience. WOW! was the first Internet service to be offered with a monthly "unlimited" rate ($17.95),[] and stood out because of its brightly colored, seemingly hand-drawn pages. The WOW! service would also implement a parental control technology so that parents could limit and monitor the online activities of their children. A key component of this was a 'white list' of websites that had been vetted by a team of CompuServe editors to ensure that the sites had content appropriate for children. The service was widely advertised on TV as a 'family friendly' service.

The WOW! team was designed to be a "skunkworks project", with its core marketing and technology teams housed at a location away from the CompuServe corporate headquarters. Most of the leadership and team, headed by Scott Kauffman formerly of Time Warner, was recruited from outside the company.

To fund WOW!, Cox convinced H&R Block that the equity capital market should be tapped through a public stock offering. Block agreed, and subsequently 20% of CompuServe was sold via an Initial Public Offering (IPO), raising nearly $200 million for the company.

WOW! was not successful. CompuServe's traditional customers were not enthusiastic about the new user interface which required the Microsoft Windows platform. The first release of this program was quite buggy, with many random shutdowns of the service and loss of e-mail messages. The service developed a small but loyal fan base, but this was not enough. CompuServe shut down the service on January 31, 1997. There were a strong group of "WOWIES" who fought to revive it after its demise, and stay connected through chat groups and a web ring. This group believes they were "sold out" by CompuServe because the service was being bought out by AOL, who began offering a $19.95 unlimited service as it was shutting down WOW!.

WorldCom acquisition and deal with AOL

The battle for customers between AOL and CompuServe became one of handing customers back and forth, using free hours and other enticements. There were technical problems--the thousands of new generation U.S. Robotics dialup modems deployed in the network would crash under high call volumes. For the first time in decades, CompuServe began losing money, and at a prodigious rate. An effort, code-named "Red-Dog", was initiated to convert CompuServe's long-time PDP-10 based technologies over to servers based on Intel x86 architectures and the Microsoft Windows NT operating system.

H&R Block was going through its own management changes at the same time. Henry Bloch retired as CEO, and his son, Tom Bloch, was named as his successor. When Tom Bloch resigned to become a public school teacher, he was replaced by Richard Brown, who had formerly been one of the top executives of Ameritech. Dick Brown soon left to take the job as CEO of EDS, and the H&R Block Board of Directors appointed Frank Salizzoni, a member of the HRB Board, to serve as CEO of H&R Block. It was during Salizzoni's tenure as CEO that H&R Block's Board of Directors made the decision to divest CompuServe. Maury Cox left the helm as CompuServe's CEO, to be replaced by Bob Massey. Massey had a short tenure in this role, and was relieved in 1997. Frank Salizzoni became the acting CEO of CompuServe from this time until its sale.

In 1997, H&R Block announced its intention to divest itself of CompuServe. A number of potential buyers came to the forefront, but the terms they offered were unacceptable to H&R Block management. One would have involved a leveraged buyout which would have saddled the CompuServe shareholders with substantial debt. AOL, the most likely buyer, made several offers to purchase CompuServe using AOL stock, but H&R Block management sought cash, or at least a higher quality stock.[28]

In February 1998, John W. Sidgmore, then vice chairman of WorldCom, and the former CEO of UUNET, devised a complex transaction which ultimately met the goals of all parties. Step one was that WorldCom purchased all the shares of CompuServe with $1.2 billion of WCOM stock. Literally the next day, WorldCom sold the CompuServe Information Service portion of the company to AOL, retaining the CompuServe Network Services portion. AOL in turn sold its networking division, Advanced Network Services (ANS), to WorldCom. Sidgmore said that at this point the world was in balance: the accountants were doing taxes, AOL was doing information services, and WorldCom was doing networks.

The only reason the H&R Block management team agreed to accept WCOM stock in exchange for the ownership of CompuServe was they had worked out a deal to sell the WCOM stock for $1.2 billion in cash immediately after the transaction. In the end, H&R Block received $1.2 billion for a company it had paid $20 million for eighteen years earlier, and from which it had also generated substantial profits during its period of ownership.

After the WorldCom acquisition, CompuServe Network Services was renamed WorldCom Advanced Networks, and continued to operate as a discrete company within WorldCom after being combined with AOL's network subsidiary, ANS, and an existing WorldCom networking company called Gridnet. In 1999, Worldcom acquired MCI and became MCI WorldCom, WorldCom Advanced Networks briefly became MCI WorldCom Advanced Networks. WorldCom was later unsuccessful in its bid to purchase Sprint. MCI WorldCom Advanced Networks was ultimately absorbed into UUNET. Soon thereafter, WorldCom began its spiral to bankruptcy, re-emerging as MCI. In 2006, MCI was sold to Verizon. As a result, the organization that had once been the networking business within CompuServe is now part of Verizon Business.

In the process of splitting CompuServe into its two major businesses, CompuServe Information Services and CompuServe Network Services, WorldCom and AOL both desired to make use of the CompuServe name and trademarks. Consequently, a jointly owned holding company was formed for no other purpose than to hold title to various trademarks, patents and other intellectual property, and to license that intellectual property at no cost to both WorldCom (now Verizon) and AOL.

Post-AOL acquisition

In September 2003 CompuServe Information Service, which had become a division of AOL, added CompuServe Basic to its product lines, selling via AOL offered the CompuServe Basic service to departing AOL members, possibly[original research?] in response to reports earlier that year that AOL was losing significant business to low-cost competitors.

CompuServe Information Services was then positioned as the value market-provider for several million customers, as part of the AOL Web Products Group. Recent U.S. versions of the CompuServe client software -- essentially an enhanced Web browser -- use the Gecko layout engine (developed for Mozilla) within a derivative of the AOL client and using the AOL dialup network. The previous CompuServe service offering, re-branded as "CompuServe Classic", remains available in the US and also in other countries where CompuServe 2000 is not offered, such as the UK. In Germany, CompuServe 2000 was introduced in 1999 and withdrawn in 2001 because of failure on the German market, but the CompuServe Classic service also remains available. However, since then CompuServe Germany has introduced its own products for dialup and DSL internet access, and its own client software (called CompuServe 4.5 light).

In January 2007, the CompuServe brand managers at AOL sent an e-mail to members stating that it had no plans for compatibility with the Windows Vista operating system, and suggested that its members who wished to use Vista switch to the AOL-branded service. Like many older programs, however, CompuServe client software can run under Windows Vista in compatibility mode. In July 2007, CompuServe Pacific announced[29] the cessation of its operations on August 31, 2007. In September 2007, it was announced[30] that CompuServe France would close down its operations on November 30, 2007. In the Pacific region (Australia, New Zealand, etc.) Fujitsu Australia ran the CompuServe Pacific franchise, which in 1998 had 35,000 customers. Towards the end of its operations in that area, it was thought[] to have far fewer because of CompuServe Pacific's pricing plans, which have not been changed since 1998 (e.g., A$14.95 for 2 hours per month). In July 2008, CompuServe Germany informed its customers that it would close down its operations on July 31, 2008. Its legacy service "CompuServe Classic" would not be affected by this decision.

CompuServe forums as of 2013 are more tightly linked to CompuServe channels. currently runs a slightly trimmed-down version of the now-defunct Web portal, the latter of which was shut down in 2006.

CompuServe announced on April 15, 2009 that CompuServe Classic would "no longer operate as an Internet Service Provider" and would close on June 30, 2009. All CompuServe Classic services, including OurWorld Web pages, were taken offline as of that date. CompuServe Classic e-mail users would be able to continue using their CompuServe e-mail addresses via a new e-mail system.[31][32] The newer version of CompuServe, known as CompuServe Dialer for Windows, remains unaffected and AOL has said[] that it will continue to operate. However, with the discontinuation of Apple, Inc.'s PowerPC support in any setting, coupled with CompusServe 2000 for Mac OS X only being supported up until the last PowerPC release, version 10.5 (Leopard) and all other operating systems in which CompuServe supported on are no longer supported, CompuServe 2000 no longer works in any form on any computer (including Windows and Macintosh computers) thus leaving the CompuServe Dialer for Windows as the lone remaining version available still functioning properly on its web site. This prompted the removal of all CompuServe versions (at the time) from its website except for the Mac OS X (although no longer working in any form) and Dialer for Windows XP and Vista.

Current Versions

  • CompuServe dialer for Windows XP and Vista (Current version with compatibility going back to Windows 98)
  • CompuServe 2000 for Mac OS X (up to 10.5; no longer works on any computer or OS but still mentioned on its website)

See also


  1. ^ Banks, Michael (2012). On the Way to the Web: The Secret History of the Internet and Its Founders. Apress. ISBN 978-1-4302-5075-3. 
  2. ^ The Times: Fireside access to sum of human knowledge, 24 Feb. 1981, pg. 15
  3. ^ The INTERNET, ARPANet, and Consumer Online, by Michael A. Banks; Jan. 01, 2007
  4. ^ a b Ferrarini, Elizabeth M. (1982). The Electronic Newspaper: Fact or Fetish. pp. 45-57. 
  5. ^ Newman, Steve (1981). "Electronic Newspapers". KRON. Retrieved 2014. 
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  8. ^ "The Risks Digest Volume 13: Issue 79". The Risks Digest. Retrieved 2015. 
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  13. ^ WUGNET to Provide Computing Support Forums for CompuServe's "CSi '97" Web-Based Service
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  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ For example: 76530,523 - address of author Diana Gabaldon
  21. ^ Walker, Leslie (June 3, 1999), .COM - LIVE 
  22. ^ Goldberg, Alan (1995). "On-line services help busy lawyers". Bus. L. Today (5): 37. 
  23. ^ Ruling May Not Aid Videotex
  24. ^ The CompuServe Germany Case - May 1998 Archived February 25, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ "Judgment of the Munich Court in the "CompuServe Case" (Somm Case)". Retrieved 2015. 
  26. ^ "Commentary on the Conclusion of Proceedings in the "CompuServe Case"". Retrieved 2015. 
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  28. ^ "AOL in talks to buy CompuServe". CNET. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2015. 
  29. ^ Ceramalus, Nobilangelo. "AOL shuts down Compuserve Pacific". Computerworld New Zealand. Retrieved 2015. 
  30. ^ CompuServe Forum Center
  31. ^ The Paper PC: It's Over! CompuServe Classic is Closing
  32. ^ CompuServe Forum Center

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