Pressure? You’d better believe it. Deadline was fast approaching, and no way would Haewoon Kwak and YY Ahn miss it.
Flashback to 2007’s International World Wide Web Conference in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Kwak and Ahn were Ph.D. students wrapping up a paper about YouTube, an emerging platform for sharing videos.
The time to submit had arrived and there they were, in a Banff hotel lobby, rushing to finish.
It paid off. Their paper, “I tube, you tube, everybody tubes: analyzing the world’s largest user generated content video system,” was accepted into the ACM Internet Measurement Conference and won the Best Paper Award.
It made a big impact in 2007.
In so many ways, it still does.
“What was unclear at that time,” Ahn said, “was that it would make a lasting impact to this day.”
The Association for Computing Machinery’s Internet Measurement Conference has awarded their paper one of its inaugural Test of Time Awards.
Ahn is now an associate professor of informatics and computing at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering.
Kwak, an associate professor in informatics, will join the Luddy faculty in January.
Other co-authors were Meeyoung Cha, Pablo Rodriguez and Sue Moon.
The organization recognizes papers published at least 10 to 12 years ago in Computer Communication Review or any ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communications-sponsored or co-sponsored conference that is considered an outstanding paper whose contents are still relevant. An award committee selects the winners.
The award was presented recently during the ACM Internet Measurement Conference in Nice, France.
“I’m so happy to receive the award and appreciate my advisor and collaborators for making this happen,” Kwak said.
Ahn called the award a “nice surprise” and wondered what current research papers will discover about society’s future. He said this provides him an opportunity “to reflect on how much society has changed with these new social media.”
“At the time of writing the paper, YouTube, like Twitter or Facebook, was just an interesting corner of the Internet,” Ahn said. “Now, all these new media are swallowing up the old media. It occupies an incredible amount of people’s attention.”
Their research started when both were students at South Korea’s Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology. They were part of a team studying huge online social networking services focused on MySpace, Cyworld and Orkut.
They noticed how much people engaged online, especially by posting user-generated content such as videos, images and audio.
Now, everyone posts videos on social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
"It was a new era in that every user could participate in the Internet culture," Kwak said.
He realized that while many videos were uploaded every day, few were of good quality and even fewer were actually watched. He wondered if the Pareto principle, which states that 80 percent of the consequences come from 20 percent of the causes, was in effect, or if it was even greater.
Under the guidance of KAIST professor Sue Moon, Kwak began collecting data from a Korean online version of YouTube to analyze and understand user-generated content popularity. He soon joined with another study by another KAIST Ph.D. student, Meeyoung Cha (supervised by Dr. Pablo Rodriguez), this one focused on YouTube. They invited Ahn to join them.
Kwak said it was the first comprehensive attempt to understand the explosive growth of user-generated content. Their analysis showed that 10 percent of YouTube’s popular videos generated 80 percent of the views.
That analysis is as important today as it was then, which is the reason for the award.
“Our findings are crucial in understanding user-generated content systems,” Kwak says, “and can provide valuable information to Internet service providers, site administrators, and content owners with major commercial and technical implications.”
Did they expect the relevance to be so long lasting? Kwak credited YouTube’s sustained popularity.
“I believed our work was solid and provided many interesting insights,” Kwak says, “but I didn’t expect that we would get the Test of Time award after 15 years.”