The “Hidden” Science of Online Communities

Understanding the science of online communities gives one a glimpse into the complexities of cultural and social systems and the ways in which people interact and form societies in the digital world. The future of online communities is an exciting frontier.

Edgar Valdés
Edgar Valdés

The world of online communities is a fascinating and ever-evolving arena, where users from all walks of life come together to form digital societies. With the rise of the internet and gaming, online communities have become an integral part of our lives.

The Popularity of Online Communities

In 2020, over 130 million people played Minecraft once a month [1], and this number is only growing. Similarly, Reddit has become one of the largest online communities, with over 100K active communities and more than 1 billion registered users [2]. And, let’s not forget the massive success of World of Warcraft, with an estimated 2,377,864 players logging in each day in January 2023 [3].

The Governance Structure of Online Communities

What makes online communities so compelling and unique is the governance structure that holds them together. Research has shown that institutional diversity within communities can be measured in various ways, including the range of resource challenges and solutions used. The diversity of communication, exchange, and administration has a positive correlation with the size of both challenges and solutions.

Attracting Similar Users

Complex network methods suggest that communities with similar governance styles are more likely to attract similar users [4]. Price equation analysis even provides evidence for active selection of governance style as communities compete for users [4].

Emphasis on Norms Rather Than Rules

The governance structure of online communities, such as Minecraft, Reddit, and World of Warcraft, is similar across platforms and heavily relies on norms rather than strict rules. Rules within these communities tend to focus on setting expectations for good behavior rather than engineering incentives [5].

Some conclusions

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the science of online communities. It offers a glimpse into the complexities of cultural and social systems and the ways in which people interact and form societies in the digital world. The future of online communities is an exciting frontier, and the science behind them is sure to continue to evolve and reveal new insights.

Related Resources


Complexity is the science of our epoch, but there’s much more to come. Join me on the journey of exploring Complexity’s impact. Read related articles [6] and let them inspire you to think about the world. If you find them valuable, give a like and share with others.


[2] “The History of Reddit” by CGP Grey:

[3] “How The World of Warcraft Has Changed From Vanilla To Legion” by BellularGaming:

[4] “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives” by Nicholas A. Christakis MD PhD (Author), James H. Fowler PhD (Author):

[5] “If You Build an Online Community, Will They Come?” by Kimberly Edwards at CMSWire:

[6] Publications 2022

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Edgar is a physicist and developer working to generate high impact city science solutions with a comprehensive set of skills spawning from the social and exact sciences and solid technological