What better way to understand a social network than to see its users' very favorite things?
Oublio, a site that tracks the most popular images across a variety of the web's most popular networks, is trying to rank, and juxtapose, the most popular images from Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and Reddit. The images are by turns appealing and unflattering — most of all, they're revealing.
Checking Oublio over the past day, some patterns start to appear. Nearly every photo that makes it to the top of Flickr seem to be professionally-taken and edited photos of nature or architecture, as do a fair amount of Reddit's, which we found surprising given the constant flow of memes and gag images on the site's front page. The top Twitter and Instagram images we saw were driven largely by celebrities posting a picture and asking for "Likes" or retweets — not the most heartening collection of media. And, no surprise, most of Tumblr's top images were GIFs from movies and TV or picture collages from ripped from some realm of pop culture.
Here's what's popular right now, according to Oublio:
The Reddit image ("Karma at its very best!") is a random photo from r/pics that has nearly 5000 upvotes, while the top Instagram and Twitter images are both from celebrity accounts.
We emailed the people behind Oublio to ask how it works:
It's using each site's API, so there's a lot of site-specific coding behind the scenes. For Reddit, for example, we query all the most popular subreddits (e.g. pics, funny, aww, AdviceAnimals) for their most popular content, then filter for images, and select the highest-rated one (using the same variable Reddit uses to rank its posts). This is done for each site every hour.
In order to ensure the results are reasonably accurate, the site only tracks networks where it can actively monitor popular posts so, alas, no Facebook.
The sites on oublio are the most popular ones whose API's allow this kind of query. For example It's not possible to query public posts on Facebook by popularity, and Pinterest doesn't have an API yet. So rather than writing some kind of hack for those sites, which would probably be of lower quality, we decided to leave them out.
So, while it's probably not completely foolproof — the site's FAQ page notes that there is usually a slight delay refreshing the most popular image — it's another in a series of useful tools to attempt to make sense of the internet in real-time.