A web group is a type of online community. Well-known examples of web groups are Yahoo! groups, MSN groups, or SmartGroups. Such a group is basically a mailing list with some additional Web features. However, it is also possible to disable the mailing list feature in a web group, or to allow members to decide individually whether they want to receive postings by e-mail (the "mailing list" way) or to read them online (the "web forum" way), which makes web groups also similar to web forums with extra features such as file sharing.
Web groups require membership, but the membership is usually free. Creating a new web group is also usually free. Web groups are mostly financed by online advertisement.
Web groups allow members to share:
- postings for information and discussion
- files (image files or files of any type) - usually within the limits of a defined quota
- polls (voting)
- current events (calendar feature)
- other information such as links
Web groups are usually a combination of e-mail-based (for sending and receiving textual postings) and Web-based (for sharing files). Historically, they developed from solely e-mail-based mailing list services such as Onelist. In the early years, postings were often allowed to have attachments which was a very simple way to share files, but nowadays, this feature is usually disabled and group members must login online if they want to share files. Many web groups have also introduced resolution limits for image files, so that images of a higher resolution can't be shared.
Web groups can have different policies with regard to becoming a member or other features. Web groups can be marked "adult" which means only adults may become a member and are allowed to access their contents.
Advantages and risks
Web groups are very popular because they allow people who share a common interest to form virtual communities to socialize and exchange information, hold discussions and share files within the privacy (or perceived privacy) of the group.
Web groups, however, can also cause much frustration because practically all hosts (such as Yahoo! or MSN) regularly delete groups hosted by them without a warning or giving a reason. Such a deletion can be a catastrophe for the group's members -- like a bomb out of a blue sky it extinguishes all files, postings, the list of members, and all other content the group may have built in years of work, without any way to recover any of it. On inquiry, if they do reply at all, they will usually send a standardized reply that says the group "violated their Terms of Service" without specifying any details.
Spanking web groups
See spanking web forums and groups for a list of Web groups with a spanking topic.