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}} A virtual community is a social network of individuals who interact 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.

The term virtual community is attributed to the book of the same title by Howard Rheingold. 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 sites, or virtual worlds.<ref>Hof, R. D., Browder, S., Elstrom, P. (5 May 1997). Internet Communities. Business Week.</ref>


Virtual community sections
Intro  Introduction  Purpose of virtual communities  Impacts of virtual communities  Types of virtual communities  Howard Rheingold's study  Advantages of Internet communities  Disadvantages of Internet communities  See also   Notes and references   Bibliography  External links  

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