What is Twitter, a Social Network or a News Media?

Haewoon Kwak, Changhyun Lee, Hosung Park, and Sue Moon
Proceedings of the 19th International World Wide Web (WWW) Conference, April 26-30, 2010, Raleigh NC (USA)

Twitter, a microblogging service less than three years old, commands more than 41 million users as of July 2009 and is growing fast. Twitter users tweet about any topic within the 140-character limit and follow others to receive their tweets. The goal of this paper is to study the topological characteristics of Twitter and its power as a new medium of information sharing.

 We have crawled the entire Twitter site and obtained 41.7 million user profiles, 1.47 billion social relations, 4,262 trending topics, and 106 million tweets. In its follower-following topology analysis we have found a non-power-law follower distribution, a short effective diameter, and low reciprocity, which all mark a deviation from known characteristics of human social networks~\cite{Newman03}. In order to identify influentials on Twitter, we have ranked users by the number of followers and by PageRank and found two rankings to be similar. Ranking by retweets differs from the previous two rankings, indicating a gap in influence inferred from the number of followers and that from the popularity of one's tweets. We have analyzed the tweets of top trending topics and reported on their temporal behavior and user participation. We have classified the trending topics based on the active period and the tweets and show that the majority (over 85%) of topics are headline news or persistent news in nature. A closer look at retweets reveals that any retweeted tweet is to reach an average of 1,000 users no matter what the number of followers is of the original tweet. Once retweeted, a tweet gets retweeted almost instantly on next hops, signifying fast diffusion of information after the 1st retweet.

 To the best of our knowledge this work is the first quantitative study on the entire Twittersphere and information diffusion on it.

[PDF (4.8MB)]

@inproceedings{Kwak10www,
author = {Kwak, Haewoon and Lee, Changhyun and Park, Hosung and Moon, Sue},
title = "{W}hat is {T}witter, a social network or a news media?",
booktitle = {WWW '10: Proceedings of the 19th international conference on World wide web},
year = {2010},
isbn = {978-1-60558-799-8},
pages = {591--600},
location = {Raleigh, North Carolina, USA},
doi = {http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1772690.1772751},
publisher = {ACM},
address = {New York, NY, USA},
}

Slides

What is Twitter, a Social Network or a News Media?
View more presentations from Haewoon Kwak.

Data

Due to Twitter's new Terms of Services, we cannot share data containing tweets any more.
(for more info, read RWW's article "How Recent Changes to Twitter's Terms of Service Might Hurt Academic Research")

Social graph

Mapping table from numeric ID to screen name

Restricted user profiles (> 10,000 followers)

Frequently Asked Questions

About torrent

About crawling

Helpful other websites

  1. SNAP: Network datasets - 476 million tweets by J. Yang and J. Leskovec (No longer available)
  2. MPI-SWS - User accounts, social graph, and tweets by Cha. et al.
  3. 140kit