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The Nature of Markets in the World Wide Web


  • Bernardo A. Huberman

    (Xerox PARC)

  • Lada A. Adamic

    (Xerox PARC)


Much has been said about the possibility that in the information age, ease of entry and global access will lead to market characteristics with few inefficiencies. While several arguments have been articulated on the nature of markets and electronic commerce, little is known about their characteristics and performance. We have studied the statistics in the number of visitors to sites of the World Wide Web by examining AOL usage logs covering 120,000 sites. We found out that, among all sites as well as for specific categories, the distribution of visitors per site follows a universal power law similar to that found by Pareto for income distributions. This implies that a small number of sites commands the traffic of a large segment of the Web population, a phenomenon reminiscent of winner-take-all markets. We have also developed a dynamic theory of site popularity that takes into account the stochastic nature of user decisions to visit given sites as well as the fact that newer sites are appearing at an ever increasing rate. The model accounts for the observed power law behavior and naturally provides the amplification factor responsible for the increased performance of the top performers.

Suggested Citation

  • Bernardo A. Huberman & Lada A. Adamic, 1999. "The Nature of Markets in the World Wide Web," Computing in Economics and Finance 1999 521, Society for Computational Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sce:scecf9:521

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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew Balthrop, 2016. "Power laws in oil and natural gas production," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 51(4), pages 1521-1539, December.
    2. Alex Coad, 2010. "The Exponential Age Distribution and the Pareto Firm Size Distribution," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 389-395, September.
    3. Sophie Larribeau & Thierry Pénard, 2002. "Le commerce électronique en France : un essai de mesure sur le marché des CD," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 355(1), pages 27-46.
    4. Alex Coad, 2009. "On the distribution of product price and quality," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 19(4), pages 589-604, August.

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