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What does virality look like? Ylvis Wikipedia viewing statistics

Norwegian Ylvis (which I am happy to say has recorded a video called My name is Finn) is infesting the globe with the viral YouTube hit The Fox, likely to reach 100 million views in a week or so.

Ylvis has articles across 11 different Wikipedia language versions: Russian, English, etc. Henrik’s excellent webservice allows for easy access to Wikipedia viewing statistics.

I wrote a small Python script that would query Henrik’s webservice to get an overview of of the temporal evolution across languages for this viral hit. The plot displays the Wikipedia viewing statistics for the past 90 days with lines colored according to Wikipedia language, for example “en” being English and “no” being Norweigian bokmål. Note the logarithmic y-axis!

The video was released on 3 September 2013. Before that day the Ylvis articles usually had well below 100 views a day. Already the next day the number of views rises dramatically on the English Wikipedia, probably spawned by a Reddit post, that was posted “Sep 4 15:21:53 2013 UTC” for the morning Americans. On 6 September the number of Wikipedia views reaches a peaking level and has since been reasonably constant at around 20.000 views per day. The Norwegian and Swedish views lack around a day after the English, while the Finnish views one day extra. German and French are a whole week after the English and Russian and Czech even one and half week after. The Japanese article was first created 30 September and it is difficult to say how they whould have responded if it was created before.

There is a few interesting things to note when you compare the viewing statistics across languages:

  1. Usually there is a sudden increase in views lasting 1 to 2 days.

  2. Once the peak is attained there is usually a so far flat plateau where the number of views per day stays reasonably constant. The number of YouTube views for the video does also displays a constant viewing rate of around 3 million per day, - give or take a million.

  3. The sudden increase may be delayed across language versions. French and German — and Russian even more so — show resistence to infection from the English world, but once infected with the Ylvis virality it immediately catches on.

Is that how virality looks like?