We find that the flow of attention on the Web forms a directed, tree-like structure implying the time-sensitive browsing behavior of users. Using the data of a news sharing website, we construct clickstream networks in which nodes are news stories and edges represent the consecutive clicks between two stories. To identify the flow direction of clickstreams, we define the "flow distance" of nodes (L i), which measures the average number of steps a random walker takes to reach the ith node. It is observed that L i is related with the clicks (C i) to news stories and the age (T i) of stories. Putting these three variables together help us understand the rise and decay of news stories from a network perspective. We also find that the studied clickstream networks preserve a stable structure over time, leading to the scaling between users and clicks. The universal scaling behavior is confirmed by the 1,000 Web forums. We suggest that the tree-like, stable structure of clickstream networks reveals the time-sensitive preference of users in online browsing. To test our assumption, we discuss three models on individual browsing behavior, and compare the simulation results with empirical data.
ASJC Scopus subject areas