Web 2.0: An Emerging and Innovative Solution for SMEs

Web 2.0: An Emerging and Innovative Solution for SMEs

Alexis Barlow (Glasgow Caledonian University, UK), Margaret McCann (Glasgow Caledonian University, UK) and Anne Smith (Glasgow Caledonian University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-765-4.ch001
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This chapter critically analyses and assesses the concept and development of Web 2.0 within small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Web 2.0 is changing the way that business can be conducted, offering SMEs opportunities for developing strategies, business models and supply chains whilst adding value and gaining competitive advantage. There are many advantages for SMEs using Web 2.0 including them being easy to use, limited skills required and relatively low-cost and there are a range of emerging applications in fields such as marketing, collaboration, knowledge transfer, enhancing products and services, and research. Equally, there is an array of operational and managerial challenges that need to be overcome. This chapter suggests a set of questions that SMEs may consider using as a guide if they are considering Web 2.0 as a competitive weapon for the future.
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Web 2.0 is a concept which arose from a brainstorming session hosted by O’Reilly Media Inc in 2004. The term was developed to encapsulate the rapid development in the usage of the Web and associated technologies and applications, following the bursting of the dot.com bubble in the year 2000 (Sheun, 2008). Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the increasing move to the Internet as a platform but also through an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform (O’Reilly, 2005). The embodiment of Web 2.0 is in “building applications and services around the unique features of the Internet, as opposed to building applications and expecting the Internet to suit as a platform” (Wikipedia, 2008). A range of services, technologies and applications commonly associated with Web 2.0 are blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS feeds, social networks, forums, multimedia sharing services, tagging and social bookmarking, text messaging and instant messaging.

Web 2.0 relates to the concept of participation and interaction with Web users connecting and sharing data, collaborating and contributing their own thoughts, ideas, experiences and knowledge. It encourages interaction amongst businesses and customers who in a traditional trading environment would be restricted by direct, ‘word-of-mouth’ feedback from local customers.

Nations (2009) takes a social perspective and highlights that Web 2.0 is a social web, with people connecting with other people. It encapsulates the notion of being a more socially connected society including characteristics such as openness, participation, cooperation, community and collaboration. Web 2.0 necessitates a shift in the philosophy of society to one where we aren’t just using the Internet as a tool – but we are becoming part of it.

King (2006) suggests that “collaboration has come to the Web to a much greater degree than was previously feasible” (p.88). This has facilitated collaborative working practices and has allowed a range of products to be developed such as Wikipedia and Linux.

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