What are online communities? An Online community is nothing but a group of likeminded people who decide to interact virtually through internet on some common subject. The strength of this group can vary from two to thousands of people and the subject of interest can be just anything. They can either form a group to discuss cooking recipe or may share their experiences related to a common disease or rather express their opinion about a recent event they strongly feel about. The tools of online communities can be mailing lists or newsgroups or Web conferencing platforms.

These online communities are not formal structures and the strength of these can vary as any member can decide to draw back his membership at any point of time. The members also do not have any liability to actively participate in day to day activities of the community as these people are from diverse background and may or may not have ever met each other in their lifetime. An example of online community could be employees of an organization, forming a mail group over the intranet provided by their organization.

The concept of online communities evolved through the proliferation of internet resulting in likeminded people assembling virtually to share their anecdotes. The initial Online communities were TheGlobe.com, GeoCities and TheGlobe.com , GeoCities and Tripod .Later on Yahoo groups ,Google group ,lotus connections took this idea to next level . Recently with the wide spread use of Web 2.0 technologies Orkut, MySpace and HiFive have emerged as big tools of the online communities. Blogging is also a variant of online community pedestal.

The reasons behind the formation of online communities are many. The primary one being the benefit of large sample of society through formation of a common pool of knowledge regarding a subject. The second but equally important reason being happiness one gets in sharing an anecdote with other likeminded people who are spread all over the world ,who can further enrich the experience through their insight. The third reason is that the online community provides a platform for the expression of though related to a sensitive topic, as people can share their opinion about anything without giving out their personal information.

Online Community has its own peculiar glossary of terms. The membership can be categorized as Peripheral, inbound, outbound, insider or boundary depending upon the pattern of participation by an individual in day to day activities of community.