Delphi (online service)

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Delphi logo from 1997

Delphi Forums is a former U.S. online service provider and since the mid 1990s has been a community internet forum site. It started as a nationwide dialup service in 1983. Delphi Forums remains active as of 2013, claiming 4 million registered members and "more than 8,000 active Forums".[1]

History[edit]

The company that became Delphi was founded by Wes Kussmaul as Kussmaul Encyclopedia in 1981, featured ASCII-based encyclopedia, E-mail, and a primitive chat. Newswires, bulletin boards and better chat were added in early 1982.

Kussmaul recalled:

"Delphi was actually launched in October 1981, at Jerry Milden's Northeast Computer Show, as the Kussmaul Encyclopedia--the world's first commercially available computerized encyclopedia. (Frank Greenagle's Arête Encyclopedia was announced at about the same time, but you couldn't buy it until much later.) The Kussmaul Encyclopedia was actually a complete home computer system (your choice of Tandy Color Computer or Apple II) with a 300-bps modem that dialed up to a VAX computer hosting our online encyclopedia database. We sold the system for about the same price and terms as Britannica. People wandered around in it and were impressed with the ease with which they could find information. We had a wonderful cross-referencing system that turned every occurrence of a word that was the name of an entry in the encyclopedia into a hypertext link--in 1981..."[2]

In November 1982 Wes hired Glenn McIntyre as a software engineer primarily doing internal systems. Glenn brought in colleagues Kip Bryan and Dan Bruns. Kip wrote the software that became Delphi Conference and Delphi Forums. Dan, (another very strong software person) upon finishing his MBA at Harvard, become President and subsequently CEO when Wes moved on to form Global Villages.

On March 15, 1983, the Delphi name was first used by General Videotex Corporation. Forums were text-based, and accessed via Telenet, Sprintnet, Tymnet, Uninet, and Datapac (Canada).

Delphi was extended to Argentina in 1985, through a partnership with the Argentine IT company Siscotel S.A. [1].

Delphi partnered with ASCII Corp. of Japan to open online services in 1991.

Delphi provided national consumer access to the Internet in 1992. Features included E-mail (July 1992), FTP, Telnet, Usenet, text-based Web access (November 1992), MUDs, Finger, and Gopher. "To a lot of people at the time, we seemed to be in an enviable position" says Dan Bruns, Delphi's CEO. "But we didn't have a lot of financing to fuel our growth..."[3]

In 1993 Delphi was sold to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. News Corporation recognized that there would be growth in consumer use of the internet and attempted to use Delphi as its vehicle. It had 125,000 text-based customers in 1995 and had 150 employees.[4] Murdoch hired away IBM's director of high-performance computing and communications, Alan Baratz, in 1994 to run Delphi. Bruns and General Manager Rusty Williams stayed on. Delphi peaked with 500,000 paid subscribers and about 600 employees.[5]

By 1995, Delphi had lost many of its subscribers, and Bruns left Delphi. In 1996, NewsCorp decided to exit the online business, was laying off almost half of Delphi's employees and wanted to sell or close Delphi. Dan Bruns and some of Delphi's original investors bought Delphi from NewsCorp for an undisclosed amount. With only 50,000 paying subscribers left, Delphi was back to its pre-NewsCorp size. "We were on the same growth slope, but this time we were going down instead of up," he says. "It felt a little poetic."[6]

In 1996, Delphi launched a free, ad-supported managed-content website with associated message boards and chat rooms, under the management of a team led by Dan Bruns and which included Bill Louden, who had headed GEnie during its heyday. For a period of time, both text-based and web-based community services were available. After a year as a managed content site, Delphi reinvented itself as a community-driven service that allowed anyone to create an online community.

Prospero Technologies was formed in January 2000 as the merger of Delphi Forums and Wellengaged. Webpages for forums were discontinued.

In 2001, Rob Brazell purchased Delphi Forums, merged it with eHow and Idea Exchange, and formed Blue Frogg Enterprises. The Delphi.com domain was sold to Delphi Corporation, the auto parts manufacturer. Prospero partnered with Inforonics.

In 2002, Prospero reacquired Delphi Forums, joining it with Talk City to form Delphi Forums LLC.

In 2008, online community developer Mzinga acquired Littleton-based Prospero Technologies LLC, which was then owned by Bruce Buckland, chairman and CEO of Mallory Ventures.[7] In March 2009, a Forrester Research analyst reported on Twitter that Mzinga was having financial difficulties after it had completed a second round of layoffs.[8] On September 1, 2011, Mzinga sold Delphiforums back to early owner Dan Bruns.

Delphi's 30th Anniversary Logo (2013)

In February 2013, Delphi Forums celebrated its 30th anniversary. Delphi owner Dan Bruns said "It's true that the Delphi that launched in 1983 was very different from today's internet," Bruns said, "but one thing remains the same: places like Delphi Forums provide a friendly, comfortable setting for people to share common interests and passions and to build lasting friendships. If we keep that simple truth in mind, we have a terrific legacy to build on going forward."[9]

Delphi Wednesday Science Fiction Group[edit]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Delphi had a regular Wednesday night chat group (long before IRC and other chat programs became mainstream). Frequent attendees in this group included several professional science fiction writers, including Susan Casper, Pat Cadigan, Mike Resnick, Michael A. Banks, Jack L. Chalker, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Gardner Dozois, Lawrence Person, Martha Soukup, and Barbara Delaplace, among others.

Delphi's Forums[edit]

Delphi Forums are divided into categories, which can be searched at http://www.delphiforums.com/index.ptt .

  • Business & Finance Forums dealing with business, investing, personal finance, and career issues.
  • Civic & Government Forums focused on civic and government organizations including law enforcement, the military, scouting, and public employee unions
  • Companies Forums focused on companies and workplaces, as well as customers of certain businesses or products
  • Computers Forums dealing with computers, operating systems, software, coding, PC gaming, and vintage computers
  • Creative Arts Forums covering everything from graphic design to music to literature. Many of these forums are focused on message board signatures and forum themes.
  • Current Events Current events forums: Far left to far right and everything in between
  • Education & Alumni Mostly forums for people who went to school together, but these forums also cover adult education, homeschooling, history and languages
  • Entertainment Forums covering music, films, television and books along with communities where people gather for fellowship and fun
  • Family & Parenting Forums discussing raising children, family issues, and pregnancy
  • Games Forums discussing every kind of game from board games to role-playing games to fantasy sports to trivia
  • Health & Wellness Forums for people to connect with others dealing with specific illnesses and health conditions, along with communities dealing with the health care industry
  • Hobbies & Crafts Forums covering hobbies and interests ranging from stamp collecting to quilting to robotics to woodworking
  • Home Life Forums covering everything you do in and around the home, including cooking, pets, gardening, and more
  • Internet & Web Forums discussing everything you do online, including Web browsers, message board signatures, email, network security, social networking, HTML, and more
  • Lifestyles These forums cover a wide range of topics including dating, relationships, gay/lesbian issues, jewelry, clothing and plain old socializing
  • Motorcycles Forums for motorcycle hobbyists and riders (new category added in 2013)
  • Motor Transport Forums discussing cars and anything with a motor (except motorcycles)
  • Religion & Spirituality Forums discussing traditional religions, spirituality, atheism, and spiritual beliefs
  • Science & Space From astronomy to extraterrestrials, from hard science to the supernatural, these forums cover a wide range of topics
  • Sports & Recreation Forums covering traditional sports, auto racing, horses, college and high school sports, shooting sports and more
  • Support & Recovery Forums where people connect with others facing similar health conditions, life situations or hardships
  • Talk City Chat Forums focused on real-time chat
  • Taste & Trends Forums focused on fashion, beauty, food, and popular culture
  • Travel & Places Forums focused on a certain place -- whether it's for people who live in that place, or those that visit

Popular Forums[edit]

Some of Delphi's present forums date back to the early to mid 1990s and remain popular today. Amongst those forums:

Some of Delphi's other most active forums include:

Delphi Chat and Delphi Blogs[edit]

Delphi's active chat rooms can be searched at http://www.delphiforums.com/chat.ptt .

Delphi's blogs can be searched at http://www.delphiforums.com/BlogBrowse.ptt

Delphi Wednesday Science Fiction Group[edit]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Delphi had a regular Wednesday night chat group (long before IRC and other chat programs became mainstream). Frequent attendees in this group included several professional science fiction writers, including Susan Casper, Pat Cadigan, Mike Resnick, Michael A. Banks, Jack L. Chalker, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Gardner Dozois, Lawrence Person, Martha Soukup, and Barbara Delaplace, among others.

Additional Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]