Web Lab was founded in the spring of 1997 by Marc Weiss, the creator of the groundbreaking public television series P.O.V. One of Web Lab's first projects - and probably the one for which it is best known - is the Web Development Fund (WDF), which provides funding and support services for innovative sites proposed by independent producers. The first two rounds of the WDF were conducted in association with PBS ONLINE, which also hosted WDF sites.
Web Lab has been hailed for the groundbreaking model it has developed for creating meaningful online dialogues. Using a new technique that The New York Times called "one of the most innovative ideas for creating value and relevance in online conversation,"(full story) Web Lab sets up simultaneous small discussion groups which avoid the verbal fistfights that often plague Internet discussions and instead encourage "dialogues across differences" - in-depth exchanges between people with varying backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Dialogue participants are encouraged to shape the direction of their conversations and develop a sense of ownership that is both powerful and unique among the Web's standard asynchronous dialogue practices.
Web Lab has received support from PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Ford Foundation and other private foundations. Web Lab is the operations program of Digital Innovations Group, a 501(c)(3) non-profit incorporated in the state of Delaware.