William (Bill) Louden (born November 22, 1946) is considered a pioneer in the online/internet industry, digital media executive, serial entrepreneur, and creator of massively multiplayer online games (MMORPG) genre. He was a founding member of the CompuServe startup team (1979), a co-founder of Georgia Online (1985)- an early internet company, and founder of GEnie (General Electric Company) in 1985, Delphi UK in 1993, and Peer Forward in 2003.
In 2001, Bill was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Online Multiplayer Games by HappyPuppy.com and has been recognized as an Online Games Legend by the Computer Games Developers Association in 2011.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he joined the Navy in 1963 and volunteered for Vietnam in 1964. He served aboard the USS Bainbridge DLG(N)-25 as part of the first nuclear task force to engage in combat. Returning from active duty in 1966 as an electronics technician (E-5), he was assigned to the US Naval Reserves through 1969.
He studied electronics and electrical engineering before majoring in English and Japanese literature at Ohio State University. He received a Masters, International Management degree from the University of Maryland University College.
Louden joined Tandy Radio Shack in 1972 and, as a hobbyist, jumped into the personal computing space in 1977 selling Radio Shack TRS-80 computers. He opened one of the first Tandy Computer stores in the US in Columbus, Ohio and went on to manage several stores. Louden also developed some of the earliest TRS-80 programs including a Ride Sharing app for WNCI radio in 1978 , Golf Compu Country Club, STRTRK.BAS, and others. He founded COTUG (the Central Ohio TRS-80 User Group) in 1978 and his members began testing an online service at CompuServe service dubbed MicroNET. In 1979, Louden joined CompuServe as Director of Communications, Entertainment, and Software (VIDTEX) product lines. In 1986, MicroTimes magazine named Louden as one of the Top 50 nd Top 150 contributors to the personal computing industry.
At CompuServe, Louden was responsible for managing and sourcing products for Communications, Entertainment, and Software product lines. He designed, sourced, and produced some of the first consumer products including the first community/social media platforms, known as special interest groups or SIGS (1980). Louden dubbed these SIGS "Forums" in 1982 and led creation of the first consumer electronic mail system (1982) and the first chat product (CB Simulator). He is credited with coining the terms "forums" and "email" (which he trademarked in 1983 and later released into the public domain).
Louden founded GEnie as a strategic business unit for General Electric in 1985 and led its product design and global growth to #2 in US and #1 in Europe by 1987.
In 1994, he led Delphi's transition from a proprietary to a web-based interface (www.delphiforums.com), led acquisitions of online companies for News Corp., and founded Delphi UK in partnershipo with The Times of London in 1997.