Patrice Riemens on Wed, 24 Feb 2010 12:50:08 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> TR: Google's PageRank algorithm traced back to the 1940

(found out bwo Toni Prug, with thanks)

original at: for:

(with a graphic)

Google?s co-founders came up with PageRank, a key ingredient at the heart
of the Google search engine, fifteen years ago. However, a new research
paper has traced the origins of the algorithm back to the 1940s.

How exactly Google?s algorithm ranks web pages in search results is
currently anyone?s guess. Users looking up something on needn?t
know details as longs as the search engine produces accurate results. Web
developers, however, are engaged in a constant cat and mouse game with
Google, working hard to optimize their sites so they emerge on top in
Google?s search results.

Google, or any other search engine for that matter, never detailed the
criteria or factors influencing ranking ? and who could blame them. After
all, it?s a closely guarded trade secret that has propelled a nascent
Stanford University research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin into a
contemporary version of the digital all-seeing eye.

Back in 1996, when Brin and Page were developing their new evaluation
algorithm called PageRank, conventional search engines ranked results by
counting how many times the search term appeared on the page. PageRank
determines relevance based on the number of pages that link back to the
original site and their importance. Page and Brin even acknowledged in
their paper that a Cornell University computer scientist Jon Kleinberg had
developed a nearly identical algorithm a few years earlier, called
Hypertext Induced Topic Search. But that?s old news.

According to Technology Review, a research paper by Massimo Franceschet at
the University of Udine in Italy named a few instances of the ranking
technology in history. Franceschet was able to trace back the first known
mention of a PageRank-like technology to a Harvard economist Wassily
Leontief who had described a ranking algorithm used to model complex
economic forces. According to Technology Review:

    In 1941, Leontief published a paper in which he divides a country?s
economy into sectors that both supply and receive resources from each
other, although not in equal measure. One important question is: what
is the value of each sector when they are so tightly integrated?
Leontief?s answer was to develop an iterative method of valuing each
sector based on the importance of the sectors that supply it. Sound
familiar? In 1973, Leontief was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics
for this work.

Massimo Franceschet trailer (in Italian):

The working paper itself (English, pdf):

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