Page age shapes Web

By Kimberly Patch, Technology Research News

As it turns out, networks like the Web have something in common with humans -- how they are structured has a lot to do with aging.

Two researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark have found they can more accurately model networks like the Web by using a sort of memory that takes into account the potential for waning popularity as a Web page gets old. They also found that this age variable plays a part in the stability of real world networks.

This is a step forward from earlier models, which tend to represent popularity simply as the number of links a node has accumulated.

The older a Web page is the more likely it is to go out of date and become less popular, said Konstantin Klemm, a graduate student at the Institute. "After an exciting Web page has been launched, many other pages link to it. However, sooner or later the novelty and consequently the popularity of this page decreases. Interest shifts to pages released more recently, which are now the ones that rapidly increase the number of incoming links."

The age variable essentially introduces time into the network structure model, said Klemm. This makes for more accurate simulations of real world networks, which can potentially help in predicting how networks like the Web and wireless telecommunications will grow, he said.

It also stabilizes the network, said Klemm. "This gives insight into which growth mechanisms lead to stable structures, which can be very useful in devising strategies for expanding telecommunications networks," he said.

The model gives each node a certain amount of staying power based on how novel its contents are. "Each node in the network is assigned an extra degree of freedom containing the ability to attract links -- [its] popularity," said Klemm. When a node is created it is linked to nodes that are popular at the time. It then receives links from nodes created subsequently, he said. "This continues until eventually the node under consideration loses its popularity."

The model mimics the appearance of new pages on the Web, which have links to popular pages instead of outdated, forgotten ones, Klemm said. "A Web page released at the beginning of the year 2002 will most likely contain many links to pages of the year 2001, [and] fewer references to 2000," he said. The researchers made the assumption that the more links point to a given Web page, the less likely it will be forgotten, said Klemm.

When the researchers tested their model, they found it more closely maped real-world networks than previous ones. Many networks, including the Web, have several structural traits in common.

Scale-free networks have a few nodes with many links and many nodes with only a few links.

In small-world, or six-degrees-of-separation networks, every node can reach every other node through a relatively small number of hops, or jumps from one node to another. This small-world trait emerges when nodes in a network become clustered into groups, and is also true of networks of people, who cluster according to dynamics like where they live, work, or what interests they have.

Many network models show how either the small-world or the scale-free structure arises. Both structures emerge from the researchers' simulations, according to Klemm. "Our work connects the concepts of growing scale-free networks and the small-world effect. In our model the crucial properties of the network emerge from one simple continuous growth process." Clustering develops in the model due to the age variable, he said. "This... locality in time... causes clustering," he added.

The work is "an important step ahead in network modeling," said Reka Albert, a research associate at the University of Minnesota. There are two major directions in network modeling: small-world networks and scale-free networks, she said. The Niels Bohr Institute model "unites the large clustering coefficient of small-world network models and the... distribution of scale-free network models."

The model is useful because it closely maps real world networks, many of which have at least some amount of node memory, said Albert. "In citation networks there's a clear tendency to refer to more recent papers. In collaboration networks... new collaborations are restricted to the active people."

The Web is also affected by some degree of node memory, but the situation is not as clear-cut, Albert said. This is because it not only contains both pages with unchanged content that become outdated and forgotten, but also well-maintained pages that receive new links independent of their creation time, she said.

The next step in the research is to study dynamics like communication between nodes and propagation of diseases in their network models, said Klemm. The research should eventually point the way toward better search strategies on the Web. The idea could be applied practically within five years, he said.

The research was funded by The Danish National Research Council.

Timeline:   < 5 years
Funding:   Government
TRN Categories:  Networking; Internet
Story Type:   News
Related Elements:  Technical paper, "Highly Clustered Scale-Free Networks," posted in the arXiv physics archive


November 21, 2001

Page One

Chemists create nano toolkit

English could snowball on Net

Page age shapes Web

Circuits show six degrees of separation

Spot of gold makes tiny transistor


Research News Roundup
Research Watch blog

View from the High Ground Q&A
How It Works

RSS Feeds:
News  | Blog  | Books 

Ad links:
Buy an ad link


Ad links: Clear History

Buy an ad link

Home     Archive     Resources    Feeds     Offline Publications     Glossary
TRN Finder     Research Dir.    Events Dir.      Researchers     Bookshelf
   Contribute      Under Development     T-shirts etc.     Classifieds
Forum    Comments    Feedback     About TRN

© Copyright Technology Research News, LLC 2000-2006. All rights reserved.