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Yet its perceived importance, both inside and outside of Compu Serve, developed much more quickly.

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They were, in other words, less interested in writing programs on Compu Serve’s big computers than they were in using them as a communications tool — as a way of learning how to write better programs on the TRS-80s and Apple IIs sitting right in front of them.Some hobbyists logged onto Micro NET to get their fix of shop talk.And so, while the online programming environments sat largely unused, the email system and the public message boards were soon full of activity.Users groups were springing up all over the country for much the same purpose, but, valuable as they were, they were bound by all the constraints geography imposed on what was still a very small hobby in a very big country.What did you do between the monthly meetings of your users group?One might thus be tempted to say that Micro NET’s approach was the more visionary, hewing as it seemingly does to the philosophy sometimes known as “Web 2.0,” that guiding light of “mature” Internet culture.

To do so, however, might be to give Jeff Wilkins and his colleagues a bit too much credit.

Still, the Micro NET Software Exchange did point to Wilkins’s evolving view of the service, just as the effort that went into creating it pointed to how Micro NET as a whole was moving out of the experimental phase, ready to take its place as an actively developed part of Compu Serve’s business model.

Compu Serve began to take out some modest advertisements for the service in magazines like , and in the summer of 1980 dropped the separate Micro NET moniker altogether.

Representing Compu Serve’s first substantial investment of programming effort just for Micro NET subscribers, it was modeled after initiatives like the TRS-80 Software Exchange that was run by magazine.

With the commercial-software industry still in its infancy, these so-called “exchanges” gave programmers a conduit for selling their home-grown creations to the public.

By 1987, it would constitute half of Compu Serve’s revenue, nicely offsetting the continuing slow decline in the corporate time-sharing market.