“While working at CERN, Berners-Lee had put together all of the elements of the World Wide Web, and it was even starting to get some use internally. But he had yet to announce the project publicly. The message above was his first time doing so. The venue he chose was the most familiar to him. In a Usenet post, unceremoniously tucked away inside another thread.”— The Importance of Being on Usenet (The History of the Web)
Online community predates the web: BBSes, Usenet, email mailing lists, IRC.
What’s nice about these early platforms — and even the software that followed on the web, like internet forums (message boards) — was that they were decentralized. They were protocols or software that anyone could use to create a new place of their own.
But that’s not where we are today. We’re firmly in Web 2.0, relying on centralized service providers like Facebook, Twitter, Slack, et al.
There’s obvious upside to using these services. They handle the maintenance, the development, the support. But they also have total control. They decide how the service runs and how they’ll use your data.
Thankfully, though, there are alternatives.
Mastodon, Friendica, and Diaspora are all decentralized alternatives to Twitter and Facebook. Mattermost and Rocket.Chat are decentralized, open alternatives to Slack. PeerTube is an open alternative to YouTube. And forum software like Discourse, Flarum, and Vanilla are all open alternatives to Facebook Groups.
You can emulate some of this on WordPress, too. BuddyPress adds social media capabilities to WordPress. bbPress adds a forum. Not to mention plugins like Memberful and MemberPress that can add a paid membership component.
TL;DR = Online community predates the web. It was built on open protocols and platforms of the early internet. That spirit lived on in Web 1.0. We lost some of that with Web 2.0 and centralized service providers, but we’re not beyond redemption.