I've known about VampireFreaks.com since I lived in Toronto and hung out at the Bovine Sex Club (not what you think...rock'n'roll bar) and lived just off of Queen Street West, so I loved it when Ted presented it as a strong 'niche' community example at FOWA06, I was totally delighted. I never quite 'fit in' at VF (as I'm not a goth), but many of the people I knew 'gathered' there to announce underground parties and special events. I always loved the strength of the culture there. The site always reminded me of hanging out at the Bovine or down the street at The Vatikan.
The shocking thing about VF, though, is that it has nearly 1 million registered users and every day, about 25-50,000 of them just hang out there. It's also been around since 1999, started by a 20 year old college student, basically, for him and his friends. It's a super impressive site, too, where he's created alot of personalization for his members and really highlights the social aspect: Cults, Events, People and personal thoughts reign over his 'money making' activities. It's a really cool place, which is why it has steadily grown over the years.
I know there are oodles of amazing virtual communities like this all over the web that aren't 'MySpace' or the like. Often, we are asked by people, "Yeah, we hear the standard stories about the famous communities all of the time, what are some examples of strong niche communities?"
So, whilst we continue to look around, I'd love to put this question out to you. What great communities have you come across/been part of that should be highlighted? We'd love to hear your stories (and even invite members/founders to the community roundtable coming up to share their stories).