Before there was a World Wide Web, the vast chunk of meaningful conversations between computer users happened in the forums at CompuServe, which was the dominant online service until AOL arrived.
There was a CompuServe forum for subjects matter as diverse as PC hardware to comic books, the signal-to-noise ratio was high, and if you had a question that needed answering chances were that a fellow member would answer it– purely for the sake of being helpful.
CompuServe itself was acquired by AOL in 1998, and was never really the same. AOL itself is now part of Oath, which is part of Verizon.
And time is finally running out for the forums, which have stuck around in diminished form even as the rest of CompuServe has dwindled away. They’ll be removed from what remains of CompuServe on December 15, a fact that Harry McCracken (fastcompany.com writer) learned from Facebook friend Howard Sobel, the cofounder of WUGNET, which has managed tech forums for CompuServe for decades.