Online community

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Example of an internet forum created with the software phpBB as the technical basis of an online community
Contact list of an instant messenger system with community participants with whom personal contact is maintained

An online community ( English for internet community ) is an organized group of people who communicate with one another on the internet and sometimes interact in virtual space . On the technical basis of a social medium ( social media ), which is used as a platform for the mutual exchange of opinions, experiences and information, there is a definable social network of users with the content they have created.


In the specialist literature, the term online community is predominantly found , and more rarely virtual community (in English online community with around 60 percent compared to 40 percent virtual community ). The Duden online only lists the basic word community and gives the majority of the spelling communities as the only correct plural form in accordance with the official rules of the Council for German Spelling . In practice, the majority of communities are also used .

Terms like the Netzgemeinschaft , Netzgemeinde , Netzcommunity , Internetgemeinschaft , Internetgemeinde , Internet-Community , Internet-Scene etc. are often used by language tutors , politicians and sometimes the media to describe the entirety of Internet users, for example in political discussions. Either all members of all online communities are regarded as belonging to a comprehensive user community - or the online communities of a state or a language community are understood as a community (e.g. the German network community ).


A community platform on the Internet provides basic tools such as e-mail , forum , chat system , instant messaging , notice board or swap exchange to enable and organize the exchange between its members. A prerequisite for use is almost always a registration as a member. A user account is created for registered participation ; in most cases, self-chosen pseudonyms are used as user names. In some cases, guests who are not registered receive access, but mostly very limited.

The sociology of the internet sees the Internet as a social space and online communities as part of the Internet culture and the Cyber Society (see also digital anthropology ), she explores the social impact of digital communication to the users, especially in terms of group formation . In the marketing area , consumer behavior and product loyalty in online communities are examined (see also netnography ).


One of the first communities on the Internet is the web-based debating club The Well (the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) , which was founded in 1985 in Sausalito , Northern California by Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant. However, the first mailing lists and newsgroups can also be seen as separate communities (see also the history of social networks ). The American social scientist Howard Rheingold was the first to use the term virtual communities in his book The Virtual Community in 1993 , which are known today as online, net, cyber or e-communities. With the development of interactive Web 2.0 from 2005 onwards, the opportunities for community building increased considerably.

Organizational structures

Most online communities are basically organized on a democratic basis. Online communities have to be set up, maintained and looked after, something that members are also entrusted with (see Community Management ). Depending on the target group, the functions are coordinated and tailored to the interests of the user. Feedback, inquiries and ideas from users are welcome here, as they contribute to increasing the attractiveness and acceptance. Online communities develop particularly successfully when their driving force is not a company's marketing idea, but rather they grow out of themselves, out of the wishes of the community. In isolated cases there is an increasing tendency towards hierarchization and fixed institutions. Ideally, the community has its own rules. Even judicial, parliamentary or police-like institutions have been introduced - mostly at the request of the users. In this respect, a development towards rigid rules and "laws" can be seen, at least the desire for them. Legal terms such as “inadmissible”, “illegal” or even “accused” are used more and more in the discussions.


The communities have different, driving factors in individual cases, which determine their respective orientation.


An online commercial community is a closed network that is under the supervision of a company . The community uses the company's infrastructure for communication . The moderation and administration is usually adopted by the company. In contrast to non-commercial online communities, business online communities usually do not allow the free election of a board of directors and not only donate advertising income to community purposes, but also use them to distribute profit. A special form of a commercial online community is the customer forum , which enables customers to communicate with one another about the products and services offered and saves them from having to set up their own communication platform.

Many commercial social network services are associated with an online commercial community. These closed networks do not allow communication with members of other communities via their system. These include Myspace , Facebook , StayFriends , Google+ and the German studiVZ and meinVZ . Services with a professional focus include the networks of XING and LinkedIn , here the groups are more thematic related to everyday work.

Online service providers combine their offerings with a commercial online community in order to retain customers. When changing providers, customers not only have to consider the quality of the respective service, but also the community associated with the service. A well-known provider is the photo hoster Flickr .

The microblogging service Twitter is connected to a closed commercial online community. Services similar to allow communication with any person via the open OStatus standard.

In online journalism , reader, listener and viewer communities play an important role in the loyalty of readers and newspapers.

From 2002 onwards, commercial, closed shopping communities appear on the Internet , which can only be entered through an invitation from a member or with the help of a so-called club key.


Topic-oriented communities get their attraction from a topic that unites all users. This can be a hobby, as in science fiction and sports communities, or belief in religious communities, or political discussions in political communities. The English-language platform TES Teaching Resources is, according to its own information, the world's largest teaching community.


Wiki community

A wiki community is an online community that is formed around a wiki project. In contrast to users of other subgroups of online communities, the users here are concerned with jointly creating - mostly text - content online and making it available to other users. For example, Wikipedia has been pursuing the goal of "creating a free online dictionary in numerous languages" since it was founded in 2001. There are sometimes heated discussions about this content creation. Wikis use special wiki software for this and are less organized via chat or forums, but offline meetings also take place in real life.

Voting or rating community

A voting or rating community is an online community whose members submit to evaluation by other members. Some of these communities also allow ratings by non-members. In most cases only photos of the members are provided for evaluation, which can usually be rated on a rating scale with 0 to 10 points. However, a few communities of this kind consciously attach importance to the fact that the ratings should not only concern the pictures, but the overall impression made up of photos, introductory texts, contributions in possibly existing forums, private contact and other things.

In most of the voting communities, the voting runs uninterrupted, at most weekly or monthly bests are chosen and then presented on the main page of the community either directly or via a link . However, a few voting communities actually run rounds for a year and at the end of the day choose a winner, similar to beauty contests .

Developer community

A developer community or development community (sometimes in German developer community is called) an online community whose members work together on a project by e-collaboration (electronic collaboration) a technical product development drives. The goal of such a project can be software , electronic hardware , devices, machines or a structure. Jakob Lochner points out that there are “also outside in the non-digital world” projects that work in a similar way to the development of free software . Most developer communities make the results of their work available to the public under a license that conforms to the principles of open source .

Development communities are usually very interdisciplinary and geared towards working towards certain milestones that are defined in a life cycle. The work is usually coordinated by a project manager , which consists of one or more people and has only limited decision-making authority. Important decisions as well as the election of the project leader are democratically determined by the members, who are mostly distributed worldwide, in online votes .

As a rule, parts such as source code , technical drawings , drafts, software tests or technical computer simulations are stored centrally on a version management system accessible via the Internet . Meetings and the exchange of ideas between individual members usually take place via an instant messaging system such as Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or via a mailing list .

The infrastructure (servers, workshops, test laboratories) is financed either by donations from private individuals or by companies interested in the results of the work of a development community. Sometimes companies make employees or parts of their infrastructure available to a community free of charge.

Well-known examples of project-based development communities are:

There are also developer communities that are not related to individual projects. The collaboration of the community goes beyond the boundaries of a single project. The common denominator that forms the community emerges here through the common interests.

Gaming community

A gaming community or player community is an online community whose members play a game together and invest more or less time in maintaining the community of players as well as topics relating to a game, a game series or a game genre. The community communicates with each other mainly through various online tools, but also in so-called real life . Typical online communication platforms are IRC , TeamSpeak , Discord , our own internet forums , various instant messengers and chat programs , etc.

The aim of these player communities is primarily to exchange ideas about the game and to arrange to meet up to play together. The games are mostly games from the areas of MOBA , MMORPG , first-person shooter and all kinds of multiplayer games. For this purpose, the community of players u. a. initiates, manages and maintains the above-mentioned communication platforms. In addition, articles on the subject are distributed across the Internet.

There will also be an exchange on all topics related to the game. Examples for this are:

  • art
  • Literature (novels and non-fiction books are created for many games)
  • Creation of tutorials and guides
  • Action figures that belong to the corresponding game universe
  • Continuation and expansion of games (so-called modding )


  • Michael Bächle : Virtual communities as the basis for successful knowledge management. In: HMD. Business informatics practice. No. 246, December 2005, pp. 76-83.
  • Ulrich Dolata , Jan-Felix Schrape : Between the individual and the organization. New collective actors and constellations of action on the Internet. In: Stuttgart contributions to the sociology of organization and innovation. No. 2, Institute for Social Sciences, University of Stuttgart 2013 (SOI Discussion Paper 2013-02; PDF file; 1 MB; 52 pages on
  • Christian Eigner, Helmut Leitner, Peter Nausner: Online communities, weblogs and the social recapture of the network. Nausner, Graz 2003, ISBN 3-901402-37-3 .
  • Andreas Metzner-Szigeth: On cyber identities, virtual communities and networked individualization - social-psychological considerations. In: Sic et Non - Journal for Philosophy and Culture - on the Net, No. 9, 2008
  • Jan Georg Milz: Instant Online Communities. University of Hamburg 2009 (Diploma thesis Computer Science: online ).
  • Erik Möller : The secret media revolution. How weblogs, wikis and free software are changing the world. Heise, Hannover 2004, ISBN 3-936931-16-X (Deputy Managing Director Wikimedia Foundation).
  • Derek M. Powazek: Design for Community. The Art of Connecting Real People in Virtual Places. New Riders, Indianapolis 2002, ISBN 0-7357-1075-9 (English).
  • Howard Rheingold : The Virtual Community. Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. 2nd Edition. MIT Press, 2000, ISBN 0-262-68121-8 (US original 1993: online version; German: Virtual Communities. Social Relations in the Age of the Computer. Addison-Wesley, Bonn / Paris 1994, ISBN 3-8931-9671 -4 ).
  • Christoph Rosenkranz, Christoph Feddersen: Managing Viable Virtual Communities. An Exploratory Case Study and Explanatory Model. In: International Journal of Web Based Communities. Volume 6, No. 1, 2010, doi : 10.1504 / IJWBC.2010.030014 , pp. 5–24 (English; German authors).
  • Marc Smith, Peter Kollock (Ed.): Communities in Cyberspace. Routledge, London / New York 1999, ISBN 0-415-19139-4 (English; excerpt in the Google book search).
  • Christian Stegbauer : Limits of Virtual Community. Structures of internet-based forms of communication. Westdeutscher Verlag, Wiesbaden 2001, ISBN 3-531-13644-5 .
  • Claudia Verstraete: Virtual brand communities. Newsgroups and chats as instruments of brand loyalty. Eul, Lohmar / Cologne 2004, ISBN 3-89936-193-8 .
  • Chris Werry, Miranda Mowbray: Online Communities. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River 2001, ISBN 0-13-032382-9 (English).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b The Association for Computing Machinery ( ACM ) found in May 2014 (2,235,203 total entries ) for the keyword online community 75,966 entries and 48,697 for virtual community (61 to 39 percent; spelling synonymous: community, communities, communities ). The German vocabulary search ( Memento of the original from September 13, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. the University of Leipzig showed a total of 3433 hits for community and 151 hits for online community in May 2014 ; The search for virtual community yields no hits . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Duden online: Community. Retrieved on August 24, 2017 : "Grammar -> Plural -> the Communities" .
  3. Wolf Schmidt : De Maizière wants to block the Internet: network community and FDP disappointed. In: the daily newspaper . April 28, 2010, accessed on May 14, 2014 : "At the same time, de Maizière drew the displeasure of the Internet community with his advance - he actually wanted to approach them with a series of network dialogues."
  4. Self-presentation: Learn About The WELL. The Well Group, Inc., California, accessed May 14, 2014 .
  5. a b Jakob Lochner: Open Source at large. In: Heise Open Source . September 12, 2013, accessed May 14, 2014 .
  6. ^ Walt Scacchi: Software Development Practices in Open Software Development. Communities: A Comparative Case Study. (PDF; 106 kB) University of California, Irvine, April 2001, accessed on May 14, 2014 (English, 9 pages; position paper).
  7. CodeProject: CodeProject - For those who code. Retrieved April 20, 2017 .