Establishing the Credibility of Social Web Applications

Establishing the Credibility of Social Web Applications

Pankaj Kamthan (Concordia University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch226
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In recent years, there has been a steady shift in the nature of Web applications. The vehicle of this transition of Web applications is us, the people. The ability to post photographs or videos, exchange music snippets with peers, and annotate a piece of information, are but a few exemplars of this phenomenon. Indeed, the pseudonym Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005) has been used to describe the apparent “socialization” of the Web. In spite of the significant prospects offered by humancentric Web applications, the mere fact that virtually anyone can set up such applications claiming to sell products and services or upload/post unscrutinized information on a topic as being “definitive,” raises the issues of credibility from a consumers’ viewpoint. Therefore, establishing credibility is essential for an organization’s reputation and for building consumers’ trust. The rest of the article is organized as follows. We first provide the background necessary for later discussion. This is followed by the introduction of a framework within which different types of credibility in the context of human-centric Web applications can be systematically addressed and thereby improved. Next, challenges and directions for future research are outlined. Finally, concluding remarks are given.
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In this section, we present the fundamental concepts underlying credibility and present the motivation and related work for addressing credibility within the context of Web applications.

Basic Concepts of Credibility of Web Applications

For the purposes of this article, we will consider credibility to be synonymous to (and therefore interchangeable with) believability (Fogg & Tseng, 1999).

The concept of credibility can be classified based upon the types of user interactions with a Web application. A user could consider a Web application to be credible based upon direct interaction with the application (active credibility), or consider it to be credible in absence of any direct interaction but based on certain pre-determined notions (passive credibility). There can be two types of active credibility, namely surface credibility, which describes how much the user believes the Web application based on simple inspection, and experienced credibility, which describes how much the user believes the Web application based on first-hand experience in the past. There can be two types of passive credibility, namely presumed credibility, which describes how much the user believes the Web application because of general assumptions that the user holds, and reputed credibility, which describes how much the user believes the Web application because of a reference from a third party.

The issue of the credibility of Web applications has garnered attention in recent years from diverse viewpoints and this has lead to theoretical (Fogg, 2003; Metzger, 2005) and empirical (Consumer Reports WebWatch, 2005) studies pertaining to the credibility of both commercial and non-commercial Web applications.

There have been some partial efforts in addressing the credibility of Web applications. A set of guidelines for improving the credibility of Web applications have been presented (Fogg, 2003). However, these guidelines are stated in such a fashion that they can be open to broad interpretation, do not always present the relationships among them, and are stated at such a high-level that they may not always be practical or may be difficult to realize by a novice user.

A general framework for addressing the credibility of Web applications has been proposed previously (Kamthan, 2007; Kamthan, 2008). This article presents an adaptation as well as a modest extension of these works.


A Systematic Approach Towards The Credibility Of Web Applications

In this section, we consider approaches for understanding and improving active and passive credibility.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Quality: The totality of features and characteristics of a product or a service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.

Semantic Web: An extension of the current Web that adds technological infrastructure for better knowledge representation, interpretation, and reasoning.

Credibility Engineering: The discipline of ensuring that a system will be perceived as credible by its stakeholders, and doing so throughout the life cycle of the system.

Quality Model: A set of characteristics and the relationships between them that provide the basis for specifying quality requirements and evaluating quality of an entity.

Web Application: A specific to a domain Web site that behaves more like an interactive software system rather than a catalog: it will in general require programmatic ability on the server-side and may integrate/deploy additional software for some purpose (such as dynamic delivery of resources).

Web Engineering: A discipline concerned with the establishment and use of sound scientific, engineering and management principles and systematic approaches to the successful development, deployment, and maintenance of high-quality Web applications.

Semiotics: The field of study of signs and the communicative properties of their representations.

Delivery Context: A set of attributes that characterizes the capabilities of the access mechanism, the preferences of the user, and other aspects of the context into which a resource is to be delivered.

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