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PowWow (chat program)

PowWow (chat program)

PowWow was one of the first Internet instant message and chat programs for Windows. It was made by a company called Tribal Voice. It is a quintessential internet startup meltdown story.

Many of the features found in contemporary instant messaging programs were first introduced in PowWow. The program also had several innovative features such as allowing users to talk with each other using VoIP, a shared whiteboard, a built-in speech synthesizer, WAV sound file playing, offline transmittal of instant messages via POP/SMTP and the ability for users to 'cruise' to the same web page.

The company was founded at the end of 1994 by the software millionaire John McAfee, founder of McAfee Associates (now called McAfee). On its website, the company described itself initially as a 'Native American' company run by Native Americans. As the company grew, the Native American references gradually disappeared.

In 1998 McAfee brought in Joseph Esposito, formerly the president and CEO of Encyclopædia Britannica, to run the company. The company started in Woodland Park, Colorado and later located its corporate headquarters in Scotts Valley, California, both in the USA.

In the late 1990s Tribal Voice began to OEM the PowWow software in order to increase market share. While most of these deals were insubstantial, several were with high-profile companies, including AT&T's WorldNet internet service provider (ISP), search engine/portal AltaVista and FreeServe, a United Kingdom-based ISP.

PowWow was one of the first instant messaging programs to provide interoperability between multiple instant messaging clients and was compatible with both AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and Microsoft's MSN Messenger.

In the late 1990s AOL sued Tribal Voice for use of the phrase 'buddy list' and made repeated efforts to block interoperability between their instant messaging client and Tribal Voice's, as well as those of other companies.

In 1999 the company was then acquired by dot-com incubator CMGI, who moved the company's development center from Woodland Park to Colorado Springs, Colorado and closed the Scotts Valley, California office. In 2000, CMGI merged the company into CMGIon, a division of CMGI, founded with help from Sun Microsystems and Novell. In January 2001, CMGIon closed its Colorado Springs office, the former Tribal Voice.


(company officers prior to acquisition )

  • John McAfee, CEO, Board
  • Joseph Esposito, CEO
  • Nigel Thompson, CTO [later Chief Architect, CMGion]
  • Richard Dym, VP Marketing
  • Lee Finck, VP Sales
  • Kathy Johnson, Director of Product Marketing
  • Beth Nagengast, Director Corporate Marketing


(technical management and leads) by last name, in alphabetical order

  • Jared Bergeron, Director, IT
  • Dave Debenham, Sr. Lead, Server
  • Bullitt Fitzhugh, Director, IT
  • G.E. 'Rok' Gayles, System Administrator
  • Michael Gilardino, Director, Quality Assurance
  • Aryeh Goretsky, Director, Support
  • Zach Hornbaker, Webmaster
  • Ingrid Janse (née Bomgardner), Program Manager
  • Michael Mansfield, Director, User Relations
  • Paul Peterson, Sr. Lead, Client
  • Chad Routh, Sr. System Administrator
  • Jim Zoromski, Sr. Lead, Database

External links

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