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Cartoon illustrating the basic principle of PageRank. The size of each face is proportional to the total size of the other faces which are pointing to it.

PageRank is the algorithm Google uses to rank websites. It uses the quality of other websites, and how many links from external sites the site has to calculate the site's rank. The feature was named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google.

PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.

It is not the only algorithm used by Google to order search engine results, but it is the first algorithm that was used by the company, and it is the best-known.

Description

PageRank is a link analysis algorithm and it assigns a numerical weighting to each element of a hyperlinked set of documents, such as the World Wide Web, with the purpose of "measuring" its relative importance within the set. The algorithm may be applied to any collection of entities with reciprocal quotations and references. The numerical weight that it assigns to any given element E is referred to as the PageRank of E and denoted by PR(E). Other factors like Author Rank can contribute to the importance of an entity.

A PageRank results from a mathematical algorithm based on the webgraph, created by all World Wide Web pages as nodes and hyperlinks as edges, taking into consideration authority hubs such as cnn.com or usa.gov. The rank value indicates an importance of a particular page. A hyperlink to a page counts as a vote of support. The PageRank of a page is defined recursively and depends on the number and PageRank metric of all pages that link to it ("incoming links"). A page that is linked to by many pages with high PageRank receives a high rank itself.

Numerous academic papers concerning PageRank have been published since Page and Brin's original paper. In practice, the PageRank concept may be vulnerable to manipulation. Research has been conducted into identifying falsely influenced PageRank rankings. The goal is to find an effective means of ignoring links from documents with falsely influenced PageRank.

Other link-based ranking algorithms for Web pages include the HITS algorithm invented by Jon Kleinberg (used by Teoma and now Ask.com), the IBM CLEVER project, the TrustRank algorithm and the hummingbird algorithm.

History

The idea of formulating a link analysis problem as an eigenvalue problem was probably first suggested in 1976 by Gabriel Pinski and Francis Narin, who worked on scientometrics ranking scientific journals. PageRank was developed at Stanford University by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1996 as part of a research project about a new kind of search engine. Sergey Brin had the idea that information on the web could be ordered in a hierarchy by "link popularity": a page is ranked higher as there are more links to it. It was co-authored by Rajeev Motwani and Terry Winograd. The first paper about the project, describing PageRank and the initial prototype of the Google search engine, was published in 1998: shortly after, Page and Brin founded Google Inc., the company behind the Google search engine. While just one of many factors that determine the ranking of Google search results, PageRank continues to provide the basis for all of Google's web search tools.

The name "PageRank" plays off of the name of developer Larry Page, as well as the concept of a web page. The word is a trademark of Google, and the PageRank process has been patented (U.S. Patent 6,285,999). However, the patent is assigned to Stanford University and not to Google. Google has exclusive license rights on the patent from Stanford University. The university received 1.8 million shares of Google in exchange for use of the patent; the shares were sold in 2005 for $336 million.

PageRank was influenced by citation analysis, early developed by Eugene Garfield in the 1950s at the University of Pennsylvania, and by Hyper Search, developed by Massimo Marchiori at the University of Padua. In the same year PageRank was introduced (1998), Jon Kleinberg published his important work on HITS. Google's founders cite Garfield, Marchiori, and Kleinberg in their original papers.

A small search engine called "RankDex" from IDD Information Services designed by Robin Li was, since 1996, already exploring a similar strategy for site-scoring and page ranking. The technology in RankDex would be patented by 1999 and used later when Li founded Baidu in China. Li's work would be referenced by some of Larry Page's U.S. patents for his Google search methods.

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