Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Web 2.0 as Syndication

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Web 2.0 as Syndication

Article excerpt


There is considerable excitement about the notion of 'Web 2.0', particularly among Internet businesspeople. In contrast, there is an almost complete lack of formal literature on the topic. It is important that movements with such energy and potential be subjected to critical attention, and that industry and social commentators have the opportunity to draw on the eCommerce research literature in formulating their views.

This paper assesses the available information about Web 2.0, with a view to stimulating further work that applies existing theories, proposes new ones, observes and measures phenomena, and tests the theories. The primary interpretation of the concept derives from marketers, but the complementary technical and communitarian perspectives are also considered. A common theme derived from the analysis is that of 'syndication' of content, advertising, storage, effort and identity.

Key words:, Social networking, Content syndication, Pay-per-click, AdSense, P2P, Architecture of participation, Collective intelligence, Wikis, Folksonomy, Monetisation, AJAX, Architecture of collaboration, Social syndication

1 Introduction

Since 1993-94, the Internet and the Web have provided opportunities for business-to-consumer marketers. Since 2004, a new round of innovation has been heralded, which is referred to using the term 'Web 2.0'. Yet, by mid- November 2006, ISI Web of Science listed only three articles on the topic. Even by June 2007, very few additional articles of consequence had appeared, and as yet none of them had any citations. Even Google Scholar revealed only a very limited formal literature on the topic. See, however, [38] addressing web-site designers, [43] considering its applications to libraries, [42] comparing it with hypertext, and [53] comparing it with the semantic web. As this paper was finalised for publication, [7] came to light, and a book was published [58].

It is very challenging to impose rigour in circumstances in which the phenomena are unstable, potentials are unfolding progressively, and the most energetic among the actors have a vested interest in change rather than in retention of the status quo. Should researchers cede the field to commentators who are free to apply their insight and wisdom alone, without the strictures of theory, analysis and evidence?

The position adopted in this paper is that, if eCommerce researchers are to deliver results relevant to CIOs and management more generally, it must find ways to cope with highly dynamic contexts. New phenomena need to be subjected to examination, the propositions of pundits need to be tested, and theory needs to be built. For researchers to fulfil those responsibilities, some compromises to rigour must be accepted. On the other hand, it is vital that those compromises be identified and declared, and over-stated conclusions avoided.

The purpose of this paper is to interpret the Web 2.0 notion, seeking an answer to the question as to whether it is a mirage created from empty 'marketing-speak' or a tsunami of revolutionary change that will sweep over the Web and greatly alter the practice of eCommerce. It is addressed primarily to eCommerce researchers, but will also be of interest to practitioners and observers.

The paper commences by examining the propositions and prognostications of its originators and champions, placing them within the context of earlier Web applications. It then considers the phenomena from several perspectives. The primary assessment is from the perspective of the marketers and conference organisers who have generated the excitement surrounding Web 2.0. The elements fall into four related areas which share a common thread of 'syndication'. Rather different interpretations are evident when first the technical and then the communitarian perspective are adopted. Implications for business and research are drawn.

2 A Brief Retrospective on Marketer Behaviour on the Web

It is easy to forget that the World Wide Web was conceived in 1989-90 as infrastructure for information management and reticulation - "a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information" and more specifically "a global hypertext space . …

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