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The WholeEarthCatalog and later, The Whole Earth Review, were something like what you'd like the web to be, only in print. The Whole Earth Review actually got started in 1974 as the "Co-Evolution Quarterly." (CQ) They changed to the Whole Earth Review in '85. The Point Foundation was the parent organization; Point's most famous cyberspace offspring was TheWell, which was started in '84.
The Whole Earth Review is still publishing, and has a web site at http://www.wholeearthmag.com/.
For me, the high point of the Catalog, CQ, and later WER, were the reviews: usually a short but opinionated summary about why you should care about something, a picture (a cover shot for a book or magazine) and an excerpt. Short, sweet, and perfect for sending you off in directions you hadn't thought to look.