Based on an empirical investigation, this study explores the influence of institutionalised social structures in governance models of virtual communities. Drawing upon institutional theory, the research shows that virtual communities are subject to the influence of their institutional environment, and that conflictive institutions dispute online spaces similarly to the phenomenon observed in offline interactions. The paper brings two main contributions: first, it reduces the gap in the scholarly literature on understanding the influence of institutions on virtual communities, and second, it proposes a new perspective in understanding governance structures in virtual communities. The literature on virtual communities emphasises that online collectives have adopted various levels of centralisation with regards to governance structures and decision making. This study proposes that virtual communities may cultivate parallel yet contradictory governance structures in environments populated by conflictive institutions, and that ideal models of governance may cover up actual patterned behaviours.