ViralSearch can trace all those Harlem Shake videos to the source

Microsoft Research

As denizens of the internet, we hear the word “viral” often enough that it has lost most of its intended meaning. We sometimes fail to distinguish viral videos from popular ones, but there is a very important distinction between the two, and Microsoft’s ViralSearch project tries to help visualize this separation.

Let’s start with the basics. A popular article shared on Twitter by an account with over 1 million followers has not “gone viral.” For something to go viral, it needs to get shared far and wide by many people. ViralSearch gives a good visual overview of how a viral video or article spreads by showing the amount of times it got shared after its initial appearance on a social media site.

In a video it posted, Microsoft Research shows how it has gathered nearly 300,000 stories with over 1 billion tweets connecting back to when they were originally shared.

A popular story may have only been shared by 150 people, ending after a single wave of retweets from the article. A viral video, on the other hand, might be shared millions of times after initially only reaching a relatively small audience. Along with its ability to accurately display the big picture of an internet-consuming meme or cute kitten euphoria, ViralSearch can also determine how one person can affect the way something spreads.

Sadly, there’s no way to see how influential you are in the viral scheme of things as Microsoft has not yet announced any plans to release ViralSearch to the public. Hopefully in the future, this research will enable us to end the more unfortunate viral monsoons before they begin. In the meantime, you'll have to settle with boosting your Klout score.

[Microsoft Research via Engadget]

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