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Lurker (English to lurk , lurking, sneaking) is a term in net jargon for passive, i.e. only reading participants in a newsgroup , an Internet forum or a mailing list . Many find it irritating when someone reads everything they write but does not reveal anything about themselves. As a result, the term may be used disparagingly.

The term "Lurker" can also be transferred to participants in other social forums .

According to a study by Christian Stegbauer and Alexander Rausch from 2000, Lurker always make up the majority of participants on scientific mailing lists. If participants stay in the position of lurker for a long time, the likelihood that they will actively participate becomes vanishingly small.


In their English-language article Lurker demographics: Counting the silent, the scientists Blair Nonnecke and Jenny Preece problematize the concept of the lurker and find that a definition is difficult. You put z. For example, the question in the room is whether someone who never posts in the public discussion room, but constantly exchanges ideas with other discussion forum members, is a lurker. It is also not clear whether a person who makes a single post or at some point has written a lot and is no longer active, but is reading along, is a lurker.

It simplifies the matter if one sees the lurker and the lurking not as a defining characterization of the human being, but as an activity and further as a structure-analytically accessible way of using online content. Individual media use, especially in the rapid age of the Internet of the 21st century and under the influence of all the technology revolutions of the early 2010s, varies from person to person to an increasing extent. Nevertheless, an approximate typology of lurking usage profiles based on the four motivational basic categories of the benefit and reward approach can be established. As Nonnecke / Preece found out in their studies, lurking is a complex, highly developed and strategically oriented online behavior. The reasons not to post in online communities are very diverse and include situation-related causes that arise through interaction with the community, as well as personality-related causes that can be found in the character of the lurker. On the one hand, there are obstacles such as an account to be created, the effort to be made and the lack of time. On the other hand, the Lurker is not a poster for principled or intuitive reasons: no intention, lack of courage, shyness. However, a lurker is not a lurker in all of the online communities he is in. It can become a poster, especially in small communities that are partially public, in which he knows the other actors or he has an institutional function. In addition to active, selective and conscious lurking behavior, there is also an automated, unconscious and superficially unmotivated way of lurking. The personal relationship to the checked content plays a role in a lurker's motif structure. The closer a content is to the lurker, the more social and identity-related its behavior becomes. A lurking process can usually be assigned to one of the following main categories: cognitive information seeker, affective experience type, social and identity-related lurker. Lurking is and remains to a large extent multi-complex motivated and absolutely individually differentiated.


J. Michael Straczynski , the scriptwriter of the science fiction series Babylon 5 , decided to use the term "lurker" for the residents of the "brown sector" because of their similarity to the Internet lurkers.

In the official add-on for the StarCraft computer game, there is a unit called Lurker. These beings bury themselves in the earth and are invisible, even if they attack from below with their pointed spikes. You can observe everything that happens on the surface above you and remain undetected after the attack.

Lurkers are also represented in many different ways in the Playstation 2 game Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy .

In Siege of Avalon , Lurkers represent the enchanted members of an ancient people who live in the caves below Avalon and who later return to their original shape.

The lurker also appears as an animal in a computer game , namely in (so far) all parts of the Gothic game series . Many characters describe the lurker as a slimy, fast and devious amphibian that makes throaty noises and is an omnivore .

In the computer game series Resident Evil , Lurkern are giant man-eating frogs mutated by the T virus.

See also


  • Christian Stegbauer, Alexander Rausch: The silent majority - “Lurker” in internet-based discussion forums. In: Journal of Sociology . 1/30/2001, pp. 47-64. ( PDF )
  • Robert Mayer-Uellner: The silence of the lurkers. Political participation and social control in online discussion forums . Fischer, Munich 2003 (Internet research 8), 3-88927-325-4.
  • Blair Nonnecke, Jenny Preece: Lurker demographics: Counting the silent . CHI Letters, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2000. ( PDF )

Web links

Wiktionary: Lurker  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Lurker demographics: Counting the silent (PDF; 797 kB)