The Design and Development of Internet- and Intranet-Based Collaboratories

Anitesh Barua, Ramnath Chellappa, and Andrew B. Whinston
International Journal of Electronic Commerce
Volume 1, Number 2, Winter 1996-97, pp. 32-58.

Abstract: In today’s interdependent world, applications supporting collaborative interactions are critical for individuals, groups, and organizations. Most groupware applications are based on proprietary standards, necessitating vendor-specific tools and making ad-hoc collaboration difficult. This calls for a shift of technology platforms for collaborative systems (“collaboratories”) from proprietary to open environments based on the Internet and intranets. We enumerate and analyze collaboratory requirements for three geographically dispersed electronic communities: individuals with overlapping interests but without formal ties, special-interest groups, and organizations with interdependent workgroups. The requirements analysis is based on maximizing the net value derived by collaboratory users and identifies sets of infrastructure and user-community-specific characteristics. We show that, to support these requirements, Internet applications such as the World Wide Web and Usenet and non-Internet technologies such as database systems and scripting languages need to be integrated. We also discuss some design philosophies for preserving the open but secure (where appropriate) nature of collaborative systems. We follow up our requirements analysis with the implementation of three collaboratories: one based on the Internet with a flat-file structure, one involving Web and database integration in an intranet setting, and one based on both the Internet and an intranet. We also report the results of a survey of users of the first collaboratory, which support our theoretical premise of a technological platform shift and the need for integration of multiple technologies for effective collaboration.

Key Words and Phrases
: collaboration, electronic communities, the Internet, intranets, news groups, and the World Wide Web.