A Hungarian physicist and his team have discovered that every page on the internet – that’s over 14.8 billion and counting – is connected through a maximum of 19 links.
The research team, headed by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, went about working out the web’s degree of separation number – ie its ‘small world property’ – by constructing a series of special algorithms that collected all the links on a webpage and then proceeded to track them to their various destinations repeatedly. Essentially what these algorithms revealed was that a user could theoretically get to any other page from the one they were currently on through, at the most, 19 mouse clicks.
Speaking on the publication of the results in Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society, Barabasi said: “As the web began to grow in the Nineties, it was thought that it most probably had the properties of a random network.
Barabasi’s team accounted the low figure to the emergence of ‘super-hubs’, such as Google and Facebook, which boast incredibly high levels of connectivity. This is why two small and seemingly disparate webpages can be linked, as these super-sites dramatically shorten the path between the two.
Barabasi also warned that these super-hubs could potentially be a point of weakness if the internet came under attack, as they provide virtual structures that the rest of the web leans on.