Hungarian physicist Albert-László Barabási has published a new paper which claims that you can connect any two pages on the Web by 19 or fewer links. That may not seem impressive until you consider that there are more than 14 billion webpages in existence.
Slate’s Jason Bittel reported, “Everybody is familiar with ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,’ right? Well, according to a Hungarian physicist, the Internet works basically the same way. Despite there being something like 1 trillion pieces of Web out there (websites, hosted images, videos, etc), you can navigate from any one of them to another in 19 clicks or fewer.”
Smitsonian’s Joseph Stromberg added, “Barabási credits this ‘small world’ of the web to human nature—the fact that we tend to group into communities, whether in real life or the virtual world. The pages of the web aren’t linked randomly, he says: They’re organized in an interconnected hierarchy of organizational themes, including region, country and subject area. Interestingly, this means that no matter how large the web grows, the same interconnectedness will rule. Barabási analyzed the network looking at a variety of levels—examining anywhere from a tiny slice to the full 1 trillion documents—and found that regardless of scale, the same 19-click-or-less rule applied.”
Another part of the reason why pages are slow closely connected is the existence of “hubs,” sites that connect vast regions of cyberspace. VentureBeat’s Ricardo Bilton noted, “But what Barabási’s research really shows is that companies like Google and Facebook are succeeding in their missions to connect the world. Google’s mission, as it explains it, is ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,’ which is exactly what it’s doing.”
The Daily Mail’s Mark Prigg observed, “However, [Barabási] warns that the system may cause problems should the ‘superhubs’ such as Facebook and Google be attacked by hackers. ‘The flip side of this is that, in the event of a targeted attack, where the most connected nodes are deliberately removed first, then the network will be destroyed very quickly. This is the Achilles’ heel of a scale-free network,’ he said.”