While MySpace and Facebook are the new kids on the block, the fact is that on-line communities have been around for a long time. The Well, currently owned by Salon.com, is the oldest on-going community and has about 4,000 users. The Well, interestingly enough, does not allow its users to correspond anonymously. They have to use their real names. LiveJournal, a blog-based community, is another one. And, of course, one shouldn’t forget Tribe.net, a bulletin board service where a lot of Middle Eastern dancers hang out.
Lee LeFever has a good article on how social networks differ from on-line communities. For further reading, I recommend Clay Shirky’s speech on persistant behavior patterns of people in on-line communities over time. Shirky is an adjunct professor of Interactive Telecommunications at NYU which means that he both teaches how to create social software and studies how people interact with and through that software.