Online communities have existed really dating way back before the world wide web was even created:
"Online communities predate the World Wide Web and other aspects of the Internet. Since the early days of Usenet (USEr NETwork), developed nearly 30 years ago for university folk to communicate among themselves, lawyers have participated in online communities, both for social as well as professional reasons. And even before that, a Bulletin Board System, or BBS, enabled users to exchange messages in the ether."
The World Wide Web simply made it so much easier and more accessible for more people to form and join existing communities online. The graphical interface allowed more freedom and content to be shared and discussed. It really opened up what was already there to be improved and accessible to the masses.
Current online communities can trace muchof their jargon and attitude to the past Usenet groups before many of us even logged on to the internet. An example of such jargon commonly used today on various online communities to label trouble makers or people who annoy the other community members are trolls:
"In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. Early trolling was relatively innocuous, taking place inside of small, single-topic Usenet groups."
There are various such jargon online that traces its origin from niche communities who coined and popularized these terms. Examples would be like 'laugh out loud' (lol) -- a term that can trace its origin all the way back to one of these Usenet groups or AOL when it was the biggest thingnsince slice bread.
Martin reed argues that online communities who have been the most successful have done something effective at the outset and are resistant to change:
"Don’t be fooled into thinking that successful online communities are those that continuously innovate, introduce new features on a regular basis and constantly redesign to keep up with current trends. The most successful online communities are those that are different from the outset, and stick with what works. If you want to forge a strong online community, you need to be resistant to change - your members certainly are."
I only agree to an extent. Sometimes a communities fails because lack of interest, funding, or for various reasons out there. I think that communities need to evolve and retain more of what is out there and what is popular on the web ranging form videos off Youtube to blogs. They need to take ideas from other online communities and put their own spin on them to be really effective. However, I agree that if a community builds a strong base at the beginning and gives something users to look forward to from the outset than it will in general continue being successful.
The bottom line is online communities are here to stay and will continue to bind people together from all walks of life and places around the world. People are no longer restricted to communities that are local because of what the internet and online communities accomplished. With the recent 'Facebook' film, we got to see how such a simple idea can magnify into a huge community from just a University-based and close-knit group. people are really drawn and bound by these social networks and communities that form our existence on the Internet.