Sifting through the Web's data jumble
by I. Peterson
Searching the World Wide Web for authoritative sources of information about a given topic can be a daunting task. Consulting just one indexing service to track down "jaguar," for instance, generates an alarming list of 336,770 documents -- a mad muddle of entries about cars, animals, sports teams, computers, and a town in Poland.
Now, a team of researchers has come up with a method for automatically compiling rosters of authoritative Web resources on broad topics. Based on analyses of the way Web pages are linked to one another, the technique produces resource lists similar to those constructed manually by experts at such Web services as Yahoo! and Infoseek.
Computer scientists Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University, Prabhakar Raghavan of the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., and their coworkers described the project at the Seventh International World Wide Web Conference, held last month in Brisbane, Australia.
In making Web pages, people typically incorporate links to other pages. Such links furnish "precisely the type of human judgment we need to identify authority," Kleinberg says. His team couples that authority with Web-searching tools, known as engines, that hunt indiscriminately for selected words in Web text (SN: 5/2/98, p. 286).
Making the assumption that the most authoritative pages on a given subject would be those most often listed as links on other pages, Kleinberg developed an algorithm to evaluate such relationships.
He incorporated this technique into a novel program that begins by conducting a text-based search using a standard search engine, which supplies a selection of about 200 documents containing the required words. That set is then expanded to include all pages to which those documents are linked.
Ignoring the text, the program examines the network of links and assigns scores to each page on the basis of the number of links to and from it. The program then considers which pages receive the most links. A page, containing authoritative information about a specific topic or providing a useful list would presumably be the focus of other pages. Such pages are given extra value.
Ten repetitions of the calculations usually generate a remarkably focused list, Kleinberg says. In tests by Kleinberg and his coworkers, the results were sometimes better than manually compiled resource lists. However, the method doesn't always work well for highly specific queries, nor does it pick up fresh content. IBM has applied for a patent on the underlying algorithm.
From Science News, Vol. 153, No. 18, May 2, 1998, p. 278.
Copyright Ó 1998 by Science Service.
Chakrabarti, S., et al. Preprint. Automatic resource compilation by analyzing hyperlink structure and associated text. (Available at http://simon.cs.cornell.edu/home/kleinber/www98/438.html.)
Peterson, I. 1998. Web searches fall short. Science News 153(May 2):286.
Additional information about the Seventh International World Wide Web Conference can be found at http://www7.conf.au/.
Department of Computer Science
Ithaca, NY 14853
Web site: http://simon.cs.cornell.edu/home/kleinber/.
IBM Almaden Research Center
650 Harry Road
San Jose, CA 95120
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