Online communities have been around for decades, but it took recent advances in usability, widespread Internet adoption, and the proliferation of social media to make online communities and social networks something organizations could no longer afford to ignore.
The Internet on which the Web runs is a communications platform. Long before the Web, nerds with common interests found ways to talk amongst themselves. In fact, people using computers started to connect with each other during the early 1960s. Even before the Internet was introduced, military organizations and large corporations were implementing ambitious networks to share and store information.
By the 1970s, bulk email platforms kept groups in touch using listservs. These special-interest mailing lists are still widely used today in the form of Google Groups, Yahoo! Groups, and MSN Groups. Some community platforms also emerged in academic environments, running on university minicomputers.
Bulletin board systems (BBSs) brought computer-based communities out of academia and into the public psyche. In 1978, Ward Christensen—snowed in and bored during a storm in Chicago—decided to write the first BBS, known simply as CBBS.