Even though the emergence or respectively the construction of online communities is of great interest
for scientists and community engineers, only few empirical data has been presented on community
growth. This article starts with a reflection on possible growth curves of virtual communities. It
contrasts a network externality perspective that produces clear winners and losers in a market with a
long tail perspective that also allows small niche products to be successful. These considerations are
empirically tested with a sample of 74 travel communities whose numbers of registered members were
recorded at two measure points. The results show that online travel communities develop into an
archetypical long tail. A very small number of communities with exceedingly high numbers of
members are accompanied by a vast amount of communities with only few members. An analysis of
the long tail, however, reveals that the community tail is not dead but is populated by a large number
of especially regional communities that show considerable growth rates.
Aschoff, Felix-Robinson and Schwabe, Gerhard, "On the evolution of online tourism communities - Network battle or long tail niches?" (2009). ECIS 2009 Proceedings. 181.