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The Evolution of Online Communities

Online communities and social media websites are a large part of today’s culture worldwide. One might credit the creation of online communities and social-networking websites to websites such as Myspace or Facebook. However, before 2003 and 2004 when MySpace and Facebook were founded, GeoCities was actually one of the front-runners in online communities, and MySpace and Facebook merely helped to increase online communities’ popularity. Launched in 1994, GeoCities was a company that offered internet space for users to organize their own “neighborhoods” and develop an online community with other internet users. The idea behind GeoCities was unheard of in the mid-1990s when the internet community was in its developing stages. Very quickly, it gained popularity by offering online networking services to its users.

As a precursor to current online networking websites, GeoCities paved the way for many of the features one may find on Facebook and MySpace today. Specifically, the concept that users can interact with others in a virtual community that closely mimicked the real world attracted many internet users. GeoCities also allowed people to become neighbors and grouped people with similar interests together. By 1998, GeoCities has gained so much popularity that it became the third most-visited website on the web. However, as new online platforms emerged, the proto-blog took a backseat and was soon surpassed by websites such as Facebook.

A main question concerning online communities was whether the online user identities are considered as corporate property or personal property. In order to regulate information shared among its users, corporate-controlled communities include a “terms of service” agreement that users must abide by. For the most part, these communities function well and are user-friendly, but when companies have pressure from competitors, they may take actions that are unfavorable for users in the community. Depending on the situation, users’ reactions may force companies to reverse its actions or drive the online community down to the ground.

What happens when an online community is weeded out and the corporation decides to shut it down? Would it be possible to archive the users’ identities, or will they be lost in cyberspace? As online communities are being shut down, archive teams are working to preserve the interactions in the community. However, there is no mechanism to store these data and therefore no guarantee that these digital interactions will be protected.

Large online communities like GeoCities would be considered as a large component where all its users are linked to one another, either directly or indirectly. As discussed in lecture, a large friendship network is usually one giant component, and therefore assists the flow of information between the people. This concept can explain for the rapid increase in popularity of online communities and social networking websites in the past decade. Friends spread positive feedbacks about online communities, such as GeoCities, and the information is eventually relayed throughout the large friendship network, reaching almost everyone in the network.

In retrospect, I believe we have to give credit to GeoCities for formulating the idea and setting the foundations for further improvement. In today’s world, a majority of the people is involved in some sort of online community and for the most part appreciates the features within the communities. In order for the communities and its users to achieve a favorable equilibrium, the companies should have corporate control over the flow of information but listen to users’ inputs. It is necessary to regulate interactions between users and remove inappropriate content, but companies should not abuse the power to benefit themselves. With both parties in agreement and satisfied with one another, the online community will thrive even better and benefit both the company and its users.

 

Source:

Connelly, Phoebe. “The Life and Death of Online Communities.” The American Prospect. 13 August 2009. Web. 6 September 2012. <http://prospect.org/article/life-and-death-online-communities>.

Comments

One Response to “ The Evolution of Online Communities ”

  • New Social Networking Site

    I am really agreed that social communities like facebook, twitter, myspace and many other websites are becoming a good place to meet, discussion and sharing things on Internet. Its like a water to thirsty people. I these website and its like a new era to the young generation.

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