My friend Danna Crawford (aka PowerSellingMom) just wrote a great post on Practical eCommerce titled eBay Pioneered Social Networking that is well worth the time to read. I missed the wild west days of eBay but sure enjoy the social aspects that remain today. They were certainly leaders of social networking in the eCommerce arena.
I remember being active on Compuserve forums in the very early 1990s and learned the value of "tribes" there. I was most active in cancer survivor support forums on Compuserve and am still in touch with some of those members today. We banded together to give support to a very young brain cancer survivor and his family as he traveled to Canada for last hope treatment.
A thread was started on the forum, titled "Any Angels in Canada?" and several members who lived near where he was to be treated, met him and his mother at the airport and visited them during their stay giving support where they could. Many others wrote cards and posted to the forum where he could read their messages. A few years later this boy's mother sent me a memento from his memorial service and a handwritten note thanking me for being a friend at this very difficult time. She was convinced that forum support was a big factor in giving him hope and strength to endure for a few more precious years.
One of the friends I met on that Compuserve forum lives in Australia and we will meet for the first time this summer when she comes to visit in my home at long last.