Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
The word virtual means almost but not quite, in essence but not in fact: a simulation or representation, not concrete or physical. A virtual community is community that exists on the Web as opposed to in real life. Virtual universities, for example, offer web-based classes and programs. Virtual conferences, seminars, and workshops, often referred to as Webinars, are often hosted via the Internet. Virtual reality refers to real life experiences created and simulated on computer, often shared and enacted by many users through the Internet.
Many virtual communities exist in the field of genealogy, through which researchers share and exchange information. Message boards and social networks of all types function as virtual communities. Genealogy itself has, to some degree, become a virtual activity, with research materials accessed on the computer or through the Internet, as opposed to visiting physical repositories. Through virtual means, distance is no barrier in delivering genealogy information and services to researchers in the convenience of their own homes.