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Vehicular networks are a very promising technology to increase traffic safety and efficiency, and to enable numerous other applications in the domain of vehicular communication. Proposed applications for VANETs have very diverse properties and often require nonstandard communication protocols. Moreover, the dynamics of the network due to vehicle movement further complicates the design of an appropriate comprehensive communication system. In this article we collect and categorize envisioned applications from various sources and classify the unique network characteristics of vehicular networks. Based on this analysis, we propose five distinct communication patterns that form the basis of almost all VANET applications. Both the analysis and the communication patterns shall deepen the understanding of VANETs and simplify further development of VANET communication systems.