Credibility on the internet: Shifting from authority to reliability

R. David Lankes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Purpose - This paper seeks to understand how users determine credibility in the internet environment from a conceptual level and the implications of these new methods of credibility determination on internet tools (primarily software) and services. Design/methodology/approach - The author first examines the underlying reasons for increased dependence on the internet for information, using electronic commerce as a starting point. The central concept of "information self-sufficiency" is introduced and then examined through the lens of the internet and conversation theory. Findings - The author finds that users are shifting from more traditional "authority" methods of credibility determination, where users cede determinations to trusted third parties, to a "reliability" approach where users seek commonalities and coherence among multiple information sources. This has led to an increased pressure for participation and openness at all levels of the internet. Research limitations/implications - Studies on users and credibility must better account for often invisible technical factors. Practical implications - Libraries must take into account a greater need for participation and technical fluency when dealing with patrons, particularly in information literacy programs and instruction. Originality/value - This paper presents a large-scale conceptual approach to credibility on the internet. It seeks to inform current approaches to the subject nested in communications and instruction with the unique technical environment of the internet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-686
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2008


  • Information science
  • Internet
  • Library users
  • Trust
  • User studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences


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