Defining Online Community

There is an interesting discussion forming on Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategy Blog about the best way to define community, which started in Twitter as he was formulating the initial ideas resulting in a blog post.

Jeremiah proposes this definition:

An online community is: Where a group of people with similar goals or interests connect and exchange information using web tools.

He also points to a definition originating from Jake McKee:

A community is a group of people who form relationships over time by interacting regularly around shared experiences, which are of interest to all of them for varying individual reasons.

I actually like elements of both, but am not entirely happy with either definition. Jake’s definition highlights a couple of things I see missing from Jeremiah’s definition. Most notably “shared experiences” and “relationships”, which are more important to me than information. All websites have information in some form or another, but a community takes it one step farther than just sharing information.

Dawn’s Definition of Online Community

I would go with something more like this, which really is just Jeremiah’s definition with a few tweaks based on ideas from Jake’s definition:

An online community is: Where a group of people with similar goals or interests share experiences and build relationships using web tools.

What do you think?

Related Fast Wonder blog posts:

2 Responses to “Defining Online Community”


  • “using web tools” not so good. There are still online communities that don’t really use the web at all, hard as that is to believe in 2007+; email lists and IRC are the most popular alternate venues, but I’d count Usenet newsgroups in there too.

    How about “A community is a group of people who regularly communicate amongst themselves and self-identify as a community. Common characteristics of a community include: an accepted community name; a shared goal, project, or cause; and personal or professional relationships between the members. In an online community, the dominant portion of community communication is over a computer network.”

  • I agree using webtools is not good either. I updated my definition on my blog (see update 2)

    It’s a working definition, so it will change.

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