Monday, January 14, 2008


How many communities have more than a million members? I'll call such a community a megacommunity. I see that the word is already in use in a slightly different sense (see here for example), but all words have multiple senses and I can't think of anything better.

First, there are geopolitical communities such as nations, provinces, states or what-have-you and large cities. There are around 150 countries with population over 1 million and hundreds of urban areas that size (just how many depends on how you count). Numbers concerning religious affiliation are even more open to interpretation, but it seems safe to say that there are dozens but not hundreds of religious megacommunities.

What about corporations? WalMart now has 1.9 million employees. China National Petroleum has just over a million. And that's it.

Now what about web communities? If anyone knows a comprehensive list of online communities ranked by number of registered users -- and it's probably out there, I'd be glad to see it [In other words, I did a very quick Google and punted]. Here's what I got just by listing sites off the top of my head or as I ran across references to them, and quickly checking first the site's home page (generally not too helpful) then Wikipedia and then Google if neither of those seemed to work. Please take these figures with at least a grain of salt:
  • MySpace has about 300M registered users (Wikipedia)
  • Orkut 67M (possibly including at least one automagically-signed-up user who was just trying to find out how many users there were) (Wikipedia)Facebook has about 60M "active" users (Wikipedia)
  • Photobucket claims 58M on its home page, Wikipedia quotes a recent Fortune article giving 36M.
  • Kodak Gallery (formerly Ofoto) has 20M users (Wikipedia)
  • LinkedIn 17M (web site)
  • Second Life claims 11M residents on its FAQ list
  • AOL around 10M subscribers and dropping rapidly (Computerworld article)
  • flickr had about 8M registered users in May 2007 (TechNewsWorld article)
  • Near misses
  • Incomplete information (OK, I punted again)
    • Technorati indexes gobs and gobs of blogs, but it's not clear how many registered users it has
    • Skype shows around 10M people online at any given time and I've seen 100M total users claimed.
  • Some I didn't get around to looking up
    • Blogger (!)
    • Amazon
    • EBay
    • Gmail
    • Yahoo!
    • Hotmail
    • Wikipedia
    • StumbleUpon
    • digg
    • Netflix
    • jaxtr
    • Any MMORPGs
It's a big world out there. I hadn't even heard of one or two of the names mentioned until I started digging. There are certainly more online megacommunities than religious ones. There may be or may soon be more than there are national megacommunities. Certainly there are online communities that would rank high on the list of countries by size.

Does this mean that traditional structures are on the verge of being overrun by virtual ones? Well ... first, many of the figures above should be taken with a grain of salt. At the very least, one needs to distinguish between everyone who's ever registered and everyone who's actively participating (Shutterfly could and probably does claim a considerably higher number of registered users than it does "transacting users").

It's also very easy (and sometimes useful) to belong to multiple online communities. It's possible to practice more than one religion or be a citizen of more than one country, but it's not the norm and the practical limit is not much more than one.


earl said...

you need a special and somewhat sloppy definition of "community" to avoid oxymoronity.

Steve Fallon said...

Booz Allen Hamilton's definition of a Megacommunity (cited in your piece)focuses on the interaction between larger, separate communities, defined as governmental, civil, and non-profit. I think this is their book...

David Hull said...

Note to self: . That list would look a lot different now