a.k.a. virtual community
Primarily, these are areas on the Internet that cater to people's common interests. They are virtual in the sense that they exist in cyberspace and do not take up physical space. Communities are formed on Web sites, discussion groups, newsgroups, and even in chat rooms, and there are several popular gaming communities online. In general, communities communicate by using a discussion board or forum.
The Internet represents an extraordinary opportunity to converse with people all over the world; online communities provide a framework in which to exchange ideas and information, build relationships, interact, and have fun. People who often frequent a specific community are referred to as "members," and loyal members consider these communities part of their "corner of the net" (meaning they stop in every time they get online to check on things). In the industry, online communities are considered one of the three big C's: content, commerce, and community. Businesses, especially dot-coms, try to create online communities of users and subscribers to attract more customers, build loyalty with their audience, and grow a database of contacts for marketing. Ultimately, the business model is either to sell these lists or to get a variety of sponsors to advertise to the community's special needs.
NetLingo Classification: Online Jargon