A large number of publications have referred to the Internet as a  "community" 
without elaborating on this point. Few studies have attempted  to take a sociological 
conception of community and applied it to the  Internet, and those that have, have given 
only a cursory treatment of the  classical community literature at best. The purpose of 
this thesis,  therefore, was to apply a sociological conception of  "community" to a part 
of the Internet. This thesis examines the presence of elements which typically indicate 
the presence of community in a  sociological sense, through survey research of  
participants of the #friends IRC Internet "chat room."  The survey was used to 
determine the nature  and extent of social network formation in the context of how this 
relates  to a sociological definition of community. Three principal areas were 
investigated by the survey: communal social relations, geographic proximity, and 
community sentiment. This thesis also classified  various forms of Computer Mediated 
Communication (CMC) found on the Internet and framed how each of these types of 
interaction fits into a  scheme of community.

Findings indicated that the majority of the social relationships which exist in 
#friends met the characteristics needed for communal social relations.  It was found that 
the majority of the social networks formed in #friends were large in geographic scope.  
There was found to be a fair amount of community sentiment in #friends, and a high 
degree of attachment among those with close friendship ties in #friends.  Based on the 
findings, it can be concluded that the #friends chatroom on IRC has many of the 
characteristics of a community and can be considered a A virtual community.

Copyright © 1998, Dave Coon