Yahoo! Gets Social at WWW2007
Collaboration between Computer Science and other disciplines, the social Web, a stroll down memory lane, and a puzzle-hacking party highlighted the 16th International World Wide Web conference, held May 8 to 12 in scenic Banff, Alberta, Canada. This year, Yahoo! was there in force, led largely by significant contributions from its research team. Head of Research Prabhakar Raghavan delivered a plenary talk to a full crowd and Yahoo! Research had six refereed papers, two workshops and a half-day tutorial, all heavily attended.
One of the conference’s emergent principles was that other disciplines beyond computer science – for example, Economics and Sociology – are necessary for understanding the Web and realizing its full potential. The multidisciplinary aspect of Web science was a focus in both Raghavan’s and inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee’s plenary talks. The main technical program also had many interesting papers dealing with multidisciplinary themes. The topics of anonymization, information flow, expert-finding, and annotation in social networks all had noticeable coverage. On the Economics side, there were thought-provoking papers on bid optimization, click prediction and modeling, and e-commerce.
Nowhere was the convergence of disciplines – in this case, Economics and Computer Science – more clear than at WWW2007’s Third Workshop on Sponsored Search Auctions, a venue where terms like &quot;Nash equilibrium&quot; and &quot;NP-complete&quot; coexisted in harmony. The workshop explored the intricacies of web search advertising, a multi-billion dollar industry experiencing rapid growth. Contributions included new designs for auctioning off advertising space, new analyses of the systems currently used by search engines, new tools to help advertisers, and empirical studies of the industry. Participants included representatives from both academia and industry, including economists, computer scientists, search engine provider employees (including representatives from leaders Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft), and search engine marketers. Yahoo! had a large presence at the workshop: Yahoo! scientists served on the organizing committee, Yahoo! employees and interns presented six of the fourteen peer-reviewed papers, and many Yahoos attended, contributing to their voice to the discussion of this emerging field.
Elsewhere at the conference, as an industrial speaker Yahoo! Head of Advanced Development Division Bradley Horowitz also emphasized the new Web order, where artists are needed as much as technologists. Horowitz made the point that artists who can envision, create, and orchestrate online communities can be the difference between mass adoption and a flop.
WWW2007 made it clear that there is no denying that the Web is now more social than ever. Some speakers addressed the fact that the Web has seen dramatic changes in the past few years largely because of the communities it has created. Security and privacy have become more important with the growing popularity of social network sites. Identity, trust, and reputation must be defined between users and the pages on which they interact. These emerging themes, ranging from browser attacks to phishing to query log anonymization, were addressed in several papers.
The conference also had its share of papers in more traditional areas such as search and data mining. The session on search and crawling, in which Yahoo! had two papers, was one of the most heavily attended of the entire conference. There were many interesting papers on personalization, web-page mining, large-scale processing of web data, and user behavior modeling.
Interesting new additions to the WWW program were the Web History track and the Web History Museum. Some of the talks were fascinating, including stories of interactive TV products that proliferated in Europe in the 1970&#39;s and that mirrored almost everything that is done on the Web today in a primitive form. For example, one massive multiplayer game, which involved social exploration of 64 million virtual planets, each with a hidden secret, was so wildly popular that the network crashed. This pre-Internet system even featured some things that still have yet to gain a foothold on the Web, like micropayments.
Riding the social wave, Yahoo! couldn’t ignore the importance of throwing a Yahoo!-themed party. The event was held at a rustic mountain pub called The Paddock, located in the middle of picturesque downtown Banff. As usual, the refreshments were delicious, the company outstanding, and attendees enraptured – with solving a crossword puzzle (created by the Research team) that promised a higher degree of difficulty than the ones found in the Sunday (NY) Times. Competition was stiff for the much sought-after grand prize, a Squeezebox, which was awarded to 3 lucky winners who correctly solved the crossword puzzle. They were (in no particular order) Sue Dumais, Uri Schoenfeld, and Eytan Adar.
More info: http://www2007.org/