How Viral Images Spread on Facebook, VisualizedS

Like counts are interesting, but they don't tell you how a link spreads on Facebook. That's why Stamen Design has explored how viral photos spread across the network—and the visualization they've created is damn pretty.

The company analyzed the spread of three of the most shared images on Facebook, all of which were photos published on George Takei's page. They explain:

Each visualization is made up of a series of branches, starting from George. As each branch grows, re-shares split off onto their own arcs. Sometimes, these re-shares spawn a new generation of re-shares, and sometimes they explode in short-lived bursts of activity. The two different colors show gender, and each successive generation becomes lighter as time goes by.

The result, shown in the video below, is interesting. You see a stunning burst of sharing initially, and then the links spread between different sizes of groups. I like it when you see a new big burst—as popularity is piqued amongst a certain group of acquaintances. [Facebook Stories via Flowing Data]