Definition of CompuServe

CompuServe, short for CompuServe Information Service, was one of the first major online service providers in the United States. Founded in 1969 as a computer time-sharing service, it gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, providing various services such as email, forums, and access to early forms of the internet. However, with the rise of the World Wide Web and competing ISPs, CompuServe’s prominence diminished and was eventually acquired by AOL in 1998.


The phonetics of the keyword “CompuServe” can be represented as: /ˈkɒmpjʊsɜrv/

Key Takeaways

  1. CompuServe was one of the first major online service providers, offering a variety of services such as email, forums, and access to databases.
  2. It played a crucial role in the early development of the internet, and was the introduction to online communication for many users in the 1980s and 1990s.
  3. CompuServe was eventually surpassed in popularity by newer internet service providers like AOL, largely due to its complex interface and higher costs, and ultimately became a subsidiary of AOL in 1998.

Importance of CompuServe

CompuServe, one of the first major online service providers, holds a significant place in the history of technology as it greatly contributed to the popularization of the internet and development of online communities.

Founded in 1969, it enabled users to connect to its mainframes through dial-up connections, offering a multitude of services including email, forums, software downloads, and browsing databases long before the launch of the World Wide Web.

CompuServe acted as a groundbreaking force in creating a digital infrastructure for communication and information sharing, paving the way for the internet we know and rely on today.


CompuServe was an early online service provider that emerged during the initial stages of internet development. Its primary purpose was to serve as a digital platform for accessing information, communication, and networking. Launched in 1969, it quickly gained traction as an essential tool for businesses to manage their electronic communications and successfully expanded to offer services to individual users as well.

At its peak, CompuServe provided a plethora of functions such as email, news and weather updates, online chat, file storage and transfers, forums, and more. Users found immense value in the ability to connect with others and access information, resources, and knowledge on this virtual platform, effectively paving the way for the internet revolution. As the technology and landscape of the internet evolved, CompuServe evolved in tandem.

It played a significant role in disseminating information and knowledge, as well as enabling instant communication across borders, thus fostering a global connection among people and businesses. However, the advent of the World Wide Web brought faster and more accessible online services, ultimately overshadowing CompuServe. Nevertheless, the platform unquestionably played a vital role in shaping the modern digital world and served as a predecessor to current internet service providers.

Although CompuServe’s significance has diminished over the years, its purpose and usage during the formative years of the internet remain a crucial milestone in the history of technology.

Examples of CompuServe

CompuServe Information Service (CIS): Launched in 1969, CompuServe Information Service was one of the first major online services that provided access to news, email, weather reports, forums, and various databases. It allowed users to connect via dial-up modems and served as a platform for communication, information sharing, and online communities. It was highly popular among early internet users and helped introduce many people to the world of online services.

CompuServe Forums: CompuServe Forums were an important part of the service in the 1980s and 1990s, providing users with a platform to discuss topics of interest in various categories such as technology, science, business, entertainment, and more. The forums were moderated by experts called “sysops” who provided guidance and facilitated discussion. This feature enabled an active community of users to collaborate and contribute their knowledge on a variety of subjects.

CompuServe GIF file format: In 1987, CompuServe introduced the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF), a widely used file format for compressing and storing digital images. The GIF format was especially popular on the early internet for displaying simple animations and low-resolution images in web pages. Today, the GIF format is still in use and has become a common file type for sharing short, looping animations on social media platforms and messaging apps.

CompuServe FAQ

1. What is CompuServe?

CompuServe is an early online service provider that offered communication services, online forums, email access, and various information resources to their subscribers. Founded in 1969, it was one of the first and most popular online service platforms until the late 90s.

2. Who founded CompuServe?

CompuServe was founded by Jeffrey Wilkins and John R. Goltz in 1969. The company was initially a part of a larger enterprise called Golden United Life Insurance.

3. How did CompuServe work?

CompuServe worked by providing its subscribers with access to online services through a dial-up connection. Users would install the CompuServe software on their computers, and then use a modem to connect to the network via a telephone line. Once connected, users could access various online services, including email, discussion forums, and news content.

4. What happened to CompuServe?

CompuServe’s popularity declined due to the rise of the Internet in the late 1990s, as more and more people started using the World Wide Web and other online services. CompuServe was eventually sold to AOL in 1997 and later merged with Netscape’s Netcenter in 1998. The brand continued to operate under AOL until it was finally shut down in 2009.

5. What were some notable features of CompuServe?

Some notable features of CompuServe included its forums, which allowed users to engage in discussions on various topics; their online mall, where users could shop and make purchases; and the inclusion of some of the earliest versions of popular computer games, such as MegaWars and Island of Kesmai. CompuServe also introduced its own proprietary graphic format, the CompuServe Graphics Interchange Format (GIF), which became widely popular and is still used today.

Related Technology Terms

  • Online Service Provider
  • Electronic Mail (Email)
  • File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
  • Public Forums
  • The CompuServe Information Manager (CIM)

Sources for More Information


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