Microsoft Research's ViralSearch finds how things go viral

When a YouTube video of a Korean singer becomes a worldwide phenomenon, that's an example of a piece of content that has gone "viral."  But just how does a video, or a Twitter post, or anything connected to the Internet, spread beyond that original post to be seen by millions or tens of millions of people?

Microsoft Research is working on a project that examines just how something on the Internet can later be seen by a huge audience. It's called ViralSearch and it's revealed in, ironically, a new YouTube video. The video shows Jake Hofman, a researcher at Microsoft, explaining how ViralSearch allows Microsoft to search and navigate how content is spread across social media networks.

The video shows an example of how ViralSearch's interface works with Hofman looking at how a story on the website, centered on NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin. The Twitter page has over one million followers and a link to the story was posted to that Twitter account. However, the story didn't go much further than Forbes's own Twitter followers, judging from ViralSearch's branching tree interface.

Hofman then brings up another example of how something can truly go viral. In this case it's a video of a band performing a cover of a Gotye song. In this case, the video was spread by a number of different people, many of which introduced it to their own readers independently of any effort by the band. ViralSearch uses both a branching tree UI along with a collection of "bubbles" to show that this video has indeed gone viral as opposed to just being a popular video.

So how would this system be used by businesses or media companies? The video doesn't really go into that kind of speculation, but we can imagine that it could be used by media organizations to tailor their news stories and videos so that they have a better chance of going viral.

Source:  Microsoft Research on YouTube

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