The collaborative web — described as "Web 2.0" or the "participatory web" by some — includes sites such as Craiglist, Facebook and Wikipedia. In these Internet communities, individuals with similar interests not only provide the majority of the content, but also play roles in maintaining the common areas. Few in the community receive financial support for their efforts, while individuals with special expertise and/or knowledge contribute their time and energies voluntarily.
From a services perspective, the collaborative web blurs the roles of customer and supplier. The services enabled by social software are coproduced by individuals who may never meet each other face-to-face. The infrastructure for the communities may be hosted by for-profit businesses, by not-for-profit organizations, or by generous benefactors.
This paper looks at the collaborative web through the lenses of service management and service engineering. It draws on parallels between the coproduction of information content in the Internet domain, and the coproduction of public services in municipalities (Sundeen, 1985). The effect of service use self-efficacy (McKee, Simmons and Licata, 2006) and commitment to shared interests through exit, voice and loyalty (Hirschman, 1970) are considered. The relevance of customer efficiency (Xue and Harker, 2002) in a broader context of economic sociology is weighed.
Examples of flourishing and declining Internet communities are presented to highlight future potential directions for services research.