A virtual community is a social network of individuals who connect through specific social media, potentially crossing geographical and political boundaries in order to pursue mutual interests or goals. Some of the most pervasive virtual communities are online communities operating under social networking services.
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Howard Rheingold discussed virtual communities in his book, The Virtual Community, published in 1993. The book's discussion ranges from Rheingold's adventures on The WELL, computer-mediated communication and social groups and information science. Technologies cited include Usenet, MUDs (Multi-User Dungeon) and their derivatives MUSHes and MOOs, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), chat rooms and electronic mailing lists. Rheingold also points out the potential benefits for personal psychological well-being, as well as for society at large, of belonging to a virtual community.
Virtual communities all encourage interaction, sometimes focusing around a particular interest or just to communicate. Some virtual communities do both. Community members are allowed to interact over a shared passion through various means: message boards, chat rooms, social networking World Wide Web sites, or virtual worlds.