How Social Networks Differ from Communities | Blog

On the surface, a social network and an online community can appear very similar. They both bring people together to share and discuss in a digital context. But when you dig in, there are stark differences between these two.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thanks a lot for writing this up, that’s a great article!

What do you think about offers like circle, tribe, or mightynetworks? I’ve seen them labeled as ‘modern’ community platforms in some articles. Then Discourse, Vanilla or nodebb were labeled ‘traditional’.

In my view they claim the community terminology but they mostly work like gated social networks, with a focus on broadcasting content and engaging users. It seems they are used to gather a crowd of followers, but not so much to support many-to-many relationships.


This is extremely helpful (probably not in the way that was intended though). Trying to find the many differences between Discourse and social media isn’t as easy as one might think.

Here’s a relevant topic.

The algorithmically-sorted “feed” view is a major differentiator. It’s one of the defining features of most social media platforms. Discourse has a few similarities in that aspect, but it doesn’t really have anything that resembles a “feed” view, and in my opinion, that’s okay. :blush:


They tend toward being “community-in-a-box” platforms, which have specific use cases and feature sets for their audiences. Discourse tends to be more of a Swiss army knife where it can do anything you want it to with a little work.

I have another article I’m working on defining the difference between audience and community. It’s common to interchange the two, but they are vastly different concepts and deserve to be treated differently.

Here’s a great article to get started.

Right! It’s about connecting with people through conversations that matter to you. The closest thing to a “feed” in Discourse is the tracked topics feature. But this is all built around how you choose to engage, not some mysterious algorithm that picks it for you.


Here it is!