Online community or forum is a group of individual who interact with each other using internet for educational, technical, social or other purposes. While in online community the users may remain relatively stranger with no bond between them in forums individual form a bond with their shared common interests.

Earlier, Yahoo groups and Google groups provided means to form communities and through chat rooms helped people to discuss topics based on common personal interest. But nowadays there are many social networking sites, blogs, wiki which have expanded the virtual communities further by each becoming a community on its own. Most of the online communities follow a similar life cycle wherein each participant starts off as an observer. After a while they become novice they start interacting in the community. After a certain period of time by constant participation they become a regular and later on a leader where his opinions are treated with greater respect and he provides more suggestions and ideas. After a long time the participant may decide to leave the community for varied reason like change of interest, busy schedule etc and hence he becomes an elder.

Forums are governed and maintained by group of individuals known as moderators or administrators. To become a member of forum usually person ahs to fill a registration form giving their personal details. Some forums allow user to remain anonymous .There are rules and policy to be followed for continuous participation in a forum. If forum policy is not adhered to there are several steps which are taken like issuing preliminary warning followed by short term ban and permanent ban, IP blocking if the offence is repeated. The forum consists of a tree like directory structure with ‘threads’ with post within them at the lowest end. Thread is generally a topic around which the whole discussion is based. All members of the forum can participate in the thread by writing post which is nothing but participant’s message in a block along with his details along with his participation history. All the member content is monitored by moderator who keeps the forum clean by deleting inappropriate content, manages it, provided topics for discussion, and provides answers to user queries related to forum or the topic concerned. The administrators deal with smooth running of the forums .Their responsibility can include promoting member to moderator(or vice versa),make forum rules and policies, maintain database or make decision regarding the appearance of the forum.

Online community or forum is most likely to succeed if they address the immediate real-world needs of its members and has topics which make it unique from others.

What are online forums? Online forum as the name implies is nothing but a formal or informal discussion that is taking place amongst the users of the discussion board through the medium of a website over the internet. Technically speaking it is a web application that simulates the function of a discussion room in real life. The website thus generates real time user generated content. The participants in an online forum, through the medium of online discussion board express their concern about the subject or topic of the discussion. The people participating in the virtual discussion may form bonds around the subject of the discussion and thereby generate more evolved and generalized knowledge regarding the topic.

The participation in online forum is very easy. While some forums require users to get registered on the website prior to participation, other forums do not impose such restrictions. In particular the forums of United States allow anonymous users to participate in the discussion .The online forum has a unique glossary of terms whose understanding is very necessary prior to understanding the dynamics of the online forum .These terms are defined as follows:

Moderator: A moderator is a person or group of person who checks the quality and relevance of content posted on the forum. He may intervene in the discussion if the discussion is going astray. The onus lies on him to maintain the decorum and sanctity of virtual discussion board.

Posts: Post is the individual message that a user of online forum posts on the discussion board.

Thread: Thread is the group of posts related to a particular topic.

Administrator: An administrator provides the technical support for the smooth running of the discussion on the website. He configures the database, the online structure of the discussion board and other technical rules that improve the performance of the forum.

User group: The users of online forum are divided into groups based upon the topic, the user groups are assigned different privileges based upon their purpose and scope of participation in the discussion. For example an unregistered person viewing the post falls into the visitor or guest user group and he has restricted rights based upon the policy of the online forum.

There are certain rules that are called net etiquette, which have to be administered by the users of the online forum so that the content of the forum is well regulated. These rules include the check on the language, the restriction on spamming etc.