Web community: what is it?
At first blush, that's a simple question. After all, isn't the entire Web 2.0 experience supposed to be about community? The hot sites are social sites: MySpace, Facebook, even Google now that it's pushing its OpenSocial idea. The new web is about sharing, and sharing defines community, which is why YouTube traffic is growing while solitary experiences such as television-viewing are shrinking. Community is easy: just boot up a browser and take a look.
Except...what is community, anyway? When I think of community, I think of family and friends. The word has a connotations of intimacy for me. MySpace is more like being in a New York subway terminal: lots of people, lots of sound and color; it's exhilerating and alienating at the same time. I've spent more time randomly clicking through strangers' profiles on MySpace than I have actually connecting with someone who's part of my social circle. It's a very busy space populated by lots of people, but is it community?
Then there's the question of money. Facebook is hot; its traffic grows while MySpace's remains flat. It's been valued (in some quarters) at $50 billion. It's hard to get your head around that number, especially when you consider that Facebook has never once shown a profitable quarter. If Facebook is the most successful web community out there, what does it say that they still haven't figured out how to make any money?
This blog will concern itself with such questions. I don't have answers. I don't have readers or Twitter followers. I'm just one guy who's paid to foster online communities and who would like to do his job better. This blog will be the record of my explorations of web community in its many manifestations.