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The Well, an eclectic online community whose profits have never quite measured up to its pioneering influence, is being put on the sales block by Salon Media Group.

Salon plans to take its time to ensure the new owner is a good fit for The Well’s main asset — its community of 4,000 members. There were about 6,000 members when San Francisco-based Salon bought The Well for $5 million in stock 6 ½ years ago.

The service was started in 1985 by Stewart Brand, the founder of the counterculture Whole Earth Catalog, and Larry Brilliant, an entrepreneur trying to popularize computer-conferencing systems. They called it the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, or Well.

The Well turned into a bustling online hub that inspired one early participant, Howard Rheingold, to coin the phrase, “virtual community.”


Traditional phone shunned for VoIP

The number of consumers bypassing the traditional phone network and opting for Internet voice service is soaring beyond expectations.

An analysis by the TeleGeography research group found 2.7 million subscribers nationwide in the second quarter, compared with just 440,000 a year earlier.

The technology, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, requires a broadband line but generally offers inexpensive calling plans and features such as the ability to manage voice mail on a Web page.

TeleGeography forecasts annual VoIP revenue hitting $3 billion in two years.

Cable-TV companies are using VoIP to bundle phone service with TV offerings to try to stave off competition from phone companies that are entering the TV business.

University of Michigan


Service disappoints Dell customers


Dell’s customer satisfaction fell this year to the lowest rating since 1998 as consumers complained of long wait times for help and trouble getting questions answered.

Customer satisfaction at Dell, the world’s largest personal-computer maker, declined 6.3 percent, to 74 percent from 79 percent last year, based on the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News