Early Adopter: Saturn
In 1995, a new car company called Saturn added a section to their website where Saturn owners could list themselves as part of the "Saturn Extended Family." The members could upload their name, email address, hometown, occupation, and even their favorite book and movie. And, of course, the year, model, and color of their Saturn.
Figure 1 -The Saturn Extended Family, circa 1995. Ancient browser chrome left in for dramatic effect.
They also created a way to search the database, so you could find other people in your town with the same car, or other sedan owners who liked "Star Wars." Once you found someone, you could send them an email via the included address.
I must admit, I was skeptical of this as a community feature. But as I clicked through pages and pages of people gladly listing themselves with their cars, the truth sunk in. These people loved their cars, and, by extension, loved meeting each other.
Saturn proved that commerce communities were a real and powerful thing, even before the table tag. Way back in 1995, they proved that not only could you create a virtual community around a product, you should.