INTRODUCTIONThe initial community of Internet users included computer scientists, engineers, and academics. In the Internet research literature, it is generally acknowledged that online communities have been established based on either a common interest or geographic proximity. Internet services allowed fast, cheap, synchronous, and asynchronous communication, and enabled users to overcome spatial or temporal boundaries, improving the production, transmission, and exchange of information and knowledge.
Finnish technology expert Ilkka Tuomi identifies two dimensions, heterogeneity and stability, in order to explain the dynamics of knowledge creation within the Internet community. Increasing division of labor or the combination of different resources within the community might lead to different patterns of innovation and creation of knowledge. In a sense, Europe is one large heterogeneous community in which people speak different languages. Language boundaries set the geographical frontiers in the Internet community.
Several factors-technological, political, economical, and sociocultural-made the creation and diffusion of the Internet community in Europe possible.
However, initial barriers also lay in the digital divide (differential access to and use of the Internet according to demographic variables like age, gender, income, or location), the cultural divide (differential access to and use of the Internet based on computer skills and competence, or being in a culture that represents a barrier to the access and use of the Internet), and the absence of need.
In terms of technological infrastructure, a great deal of support for the development of community networks in Europe initially came from the United States, in the late 1960s and 1970s. The first mailing lists developed on ARPANET, a precursor of the Internet, were based on the first e-mail program called SNDMSG. Only people connected to the same computer could "chat," using electronic typewriters and without video screens, until the development of networks allowed for longer-range communication. In 1973,