The researchers then used a novel hierarchical approach to map the connectivity data, taking into account how the nodes are connected. Each node was assessed based on how well connected it was to other nodes that are better connected.
Most previous research efforts only considered the number of connections as an indicator of the importance of a node without factoring in where those nodes lead, says Carmi. But taking this new approach, known as a k-shell model, allows for dead-end connections to be discounted, since they play a lesser role in the connectivity of the Internet.
Seth Bullock, a computer scientist at University of Southampton who studies network complexity and natural systems, finds it encouraging to see people taking a more sophisticated approach to modeling network structures, which are often quite crude.
But, Bullock warns, although there are potential benefits to improving the efficiency of the Internet using peer-to-peer networks, letting peer-to-peer networks grow in an unconstrained way could just as easily result in the creation of more congestion. For example, there would be nothing to prevent them from channeling data through the same nodes, thereby creating congestion elsewhere. Even so, there is currently a lot of interest in trying to figure out how to improve the Internet in the future; revealing its structure should help this process, says Kirkpatrick.