2006
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Network Science

Dynamics of information access on the web

Abstract
While current studies on complex networks focus on systems that change relatively slowly in time, the structure of the most visited regions of the web is altered at the time scale from hours to days. Here we investigate the dynamics of visitation of a major news portal, representing the prototype for such a rapidly evolving network. The nodes of the network can be classified into stable nodes, which form the timeindependent skeleton of the portal, and news documents. The visitations of the two node classes are markedly different, the skeleton acquiring visits at a constant rate, while a news document’s visitation peaks after a few hours. We find that the visitation pattern of a news document decays as a power law, in contrast with the exponential prediction provided by simple models of site visitation. This is rooted in the inhomogeneous nature of the browsing pattern characterizing individual users: the time interval between consecutive visits by the same user to the site follows a power-law distribution, in contrast to the exponential expected for Poisson processes. We show that the exponent characterizing the individual user’s browsing patterns determines the power-law decay in a document’s visitation. Finally, our results document the fleeting quality of news and events: while fifteen minutes of fame is still an exaggeration in the online media, we find that access to most news items significantly decays after 36 hours of posting.

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