When it comes to active virtual communities, most people probably immediately think of gaming. For example, even iGaming, which is a sub-sector of the wider gaming industry, has millions of active users alone. Whether using an offer available from a provider or taking advantage of a rewards program, players of all skills levels, and from everywhere on earth, connect over this interest.
In fact, though casino gaming was once strictly the domain of brick-and-mortar venues, most platforms today are fully virtual. Even slots, which started as ‘one-armed bandits’ with a manual lever, are now big-budget video games developed by a range of international and cutting-edge studios such as NetEnt, Play’n Go, and Microgaming.
This highlights a key phenomenon of the 21st century: the shift toward virtual and digital online communities. Though divided by distance, time zones, language barriers, and more, remote hobbyists around the world are united by technology. Let’s cover some of the most active and expansive virtual communities in the world.
Above, we covered how popular and ubiquitous gaming is around the world. Along with virtual casino platforms, Twitch also has a commanding hold on gaming. In January 2023, it was home to 140 million unique accounts. However, entertainment isn’t the only focus for some of the largest online communities.
Education is a huge reason people join connect in digital spaces. Duolingo, the world’s most-used language acquisition program, has around 500 million users. That means that one in every sixteen people on Earth has used the app since it was released back in 2011.
Goodreads, a website that lets users rate and discuss books, is also high on the list of virtual communities. While it isn’t a language-learning website, it’s designed to let strangers discover, log, and review their favorite pieces of literature from around the world—including obscure indie titles. The site has around 90 million active users.
We live in a truly globalized era. That means that it’s quite normal for people to learn about the world beyond their own region and nation. Increasingly, living in a globalized world also means moving to new cities and countries. But not all descendants of these immigrants have a clear tie to their past.
In fact, the vast majority of people today are ‘exogenous’, meaning they aren’t living in (or even near) their ancestral homelands. Instead, most people live far away from where their ancestors evolved and thrived. But thanks to advances in DNA technology, people around the world today are reaching into the past to try to learn more about their origins.
Ancestry research is one of the most active and varied online communities in the world. Similar to Duolingo and Goodreads, the focus is on education rather than entertainment. Some groups choose to test their blood to identify geographic regions where their ancestors lived. Others focus on legal documents that let them follow a paper trail into the past.
MyLife, for example, has 51 million users who are able to find friends and family no matter how far from home they wander. Another 30 million are active on MyHeritage, while certain sites cater to specialist regions. Odnoklassniki, for example, has 45 million users and focuses on the region corresponding to the former Soviet Union’s borders.
Aside from social media and gaming, education and ancestry research mark some of the most active virtual communities in the world. But straddling the line of both entertainment and culture, art is close behind. Sites like DeviantArt let artists across a wide range of mediums share their work and interact with each other. DeviantArt, around since 2000, still has around 22 million active users.
But music is the true standout when it comes to art. While most Westerners might expect to hear of Spotify or Soundcloud, the most active music sites are located around the world. Vkontakte, for example, serves Russia and neighboring countries, helping connect around 208 million people to music streams and songs. There are also sites like Last.fm, located in the UK, which around 30 million still use to listen to, and discover, music.