Human dynamics revealed through Web analytics

Bruno Gonçalves1 and José J. Ramasco2
1Physics Department, Emory University, Atlanta GA 30322, USA.
2Complex Systems Lagrange Laboratory, CNLL, ISI Foundation, Turin I-10133, Italy.

(March 2008)

When the World Wide Web was first conceived as a way to facilitate the sharing of scientific information at the CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research) few could have imagined the role it would come to play in the following decades. Since then, the increasing ubiquity of Internet access and the frequency with which people interact with it raise the possibility of using the Web to better observe, understand, and monitor several aspects of human social behavior. Web sites with large numbers of frequently returning users are ideal for this task. If these sites belong to companies or universities, their usage patterns can furnish information about the working habits of entire populations. In this work, we analyze the properly anonymized logs detailing the access history to Emory University's Web site. Emory is a medium size university located in Atlanta, Georgia. We find interesting structure in the activity patterns of the domain and study in a systematic way the main forces behind the dynamics of the traffic. In particular, we show that both linear preferential linking and priority based queuing are essential ingredients to understand the way users navigate the Web.