Online memorials are virtual spaces created on the Internet for the purpose of remembering, celebrating, or commemorating those who have died. An online memorial may be a one-page HTML webpage document giving the name of the deceased and a few words of tribute, an extensive information source, or be part of a social media platform where users can add their own words and photos.
A few individual online memorials started appearing on the Internet in the late 1990s. Many were websites created in response to the death of a person who was in the public eye, rather than for general members of the public. One example of this is the collective memorial website Find a Grave, which at that time was focused on publishing memorial information about famous people. Also during the 1990s, newspapers and funeral homes began contributing obituaries to permanent online databases, including Legacy.com. Online cemeteries, the first of which was launched in 1995 as the World Wide Cemetery (cemetery.org), also host online memorials.
In 1997, Carla Sofka, Professor of Social Work, in her article 'Social support "Internetworks," caskets for sale, and more: Thanatology and the information superhighway',  recognized the increasing use of this new form of memorialisation. Online memorials for public events, such as the one created by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, also began to appear, allowing a collective response to events causing widespread grief.
In the 2000s, with the development of social media platforms and simplified website creation software, the numbers of individual online memorials has increased rapidly. Online memorial databases such as Find a Grave have also opened up to allow contributions from individual users.
Benefits of online memorials
Online memorials allow participation in the grieving process from a distance and at any time of the day or night; in the view of some sociologists, such public displays of grief are important for emotional recovery after bereavement. They provide a communications outlet for continued grieving when more formal events have ended. Availability of inexpensive or free online space allows grievers to include extensive content such as stories and discussions. Unlike some other types of memorials, they have little environmental impact. Facebook can give people the opportunity to keep the deceased apart of their lives by posting on their walls during the holidays, birthdays, and other important dates in their lives or the bereaved life. Online memorials also give the bereaved the ability to pull up the deceased page and go through the comments or pictures when they are having a particularly difficult time and want to remember good memories they once shared with the deceased. Continuing bonds and expressing feelings toward the deceased can be considered therapeutic to the bereaved. 
Many online memorial platforms, as well as individual memorials created on general social media sites and blogs, allow memorials to be built in a collaborative fashion by mourners, who share their expressions of grief in the form of comments or posts.
Social media pages created by people who have later died are sometimes converted into memorial sites. Facebook, for example, provides a process for transforming the profile of a deceased user into a memorial. Family members or friends can report an account to be memorialized upon presentation of proof of death. When the account is memorialized, Facebook removes sensitive information such as contact information and status updates, but still enables friends and family to leave posts on the profile wall in remembrance. However, only confirmed friends can see the memorialized profile or locate it in search.
Fundraising in memory
Online memorials are sometimes used to collect In Memoriam donations to charitable or non-profit organizations, to fund medical research, hospices, or community activities and hobbies in which the deceased participated.
- PM, Kyle Chayka On 8/17/14 at 1:35 (2014-08-17). "Don't Mourn, Digitize". Newsweek. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
- Sofka, C.J. (1997). "Social support "Internetworks," caskets for sale, and more: Thanatology and the information superhighway". Death Studies. 21 (6): 553–574. doi:10.1080/074811897201778.
- Hartelius, E. Johanna (2010). ""LEAVE A MESSAGE OF HOPE OR TRIBUTE": Digital memorializing as public deliberation". Argumentation and Advocacy. 47 (2): 67.
- ft.com "Mourners turn to virtual shrines". Financial Times (subscription required)
- Mitchel, Lisa M. “Death and grief on-line: Virtual memorialization and changing concepts of childhood death and parental bereavement on the Internet.” Health Sociology Review, Volume 21 No. 4 (2012). Page 424.
- "Sacred Waste". Death Dying and Disposal 10 Conference Book of Abstracts, 2011.
- Bell, J., Bailey, L., & Kennedy, D. (2015). ‘We do it to keep him alive’: Bereaved individuals’ experiences of online suicide memorials and continuing bonds. Mortality, 20(4), 375-389. doi:10.1080/13576275.2015.1083693. p. 386
- Hebert, Sara. Digital Memorialization: Collective memory, tragedy, and participatory spaces. Master's Thesis, University of Denver, 2008. Page 8.
- Cohen, F Jeremy. "Online Memorials: Grief and Ritual in the Modern Age". Newsletter of the Concordia Religion Student Association, 2014. Page 50
- "Ashes to Ashes to. . .Vinyl? The Tech of the Afterlife". Carbon Culture Review. By Marie Becker February 1, 2015
- John Herrman (15 March 2010). "What Happens (Online) When We Die: Facebook". Gizmodo. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
- Max Kelly (26 October 2009). "Memories of Friends Departed Endure on Facebook". Facebook Blog. Retrieved 19 April 2010.