nsf.gov – News – How Did That Chain Letter Get To My Inbox? – US National Science Foundation NSF
Everyone who has an e-mail account has probably received a forwarded chain letter promising good luck if the message is forwarded on to others–or terrible misfortune if it isnt. The sheer volume of forwarded messages such as chain letters, online petitions, jokes and other materials leads to a simple question–how do these messages reach so many people so quickly?
The NSF research by Jon Kleinberg (From Six Degrees book) and David Liben-Nowell (from Carleton!) has an interesting answer. It seems that online petitions follow quite circuitous routes and do not spread virally (each recipient spawning new ones) at all. Key nodes are critical making the whole process quite resistant to prediction and intervention. Bad news for people selling you the Dummies Guide to Viral Marketing.