Just as physical badges are used by various organizations to denote accomplishments (e.g., The Boy Scouts of America), digital badges are used in online communities to indicate a member’s achievements, skills, or reputation within their community. Depending on the community, badges can be assigned by administrators, other members, or earned automatically based on a pre-defined points system.

According to a white paper authored by Peer 2 Peer University and the Mozilla Foundation, digital badges are effective for setting goals and motivating behaviors among community members, making them an example of gamification in online communities. Introducing leaderboards alongside badges amplifies this effect.

The keys to successfully implementing badges in an online community are exclusivity and validity: the fewer community members have a badge, the more desirable it will be, but only if the community members understand and endorse the criteria for earning it.