The concept of viral internet content or memes has been played out for a number of years, but Microsoft thinks it has mastered the solution to tracking exactly how web content gets popular. At the company's annual TechFest event this week, Microsoft is unveiling a research project, ViralSearch, that has examined nearly a billion information cascades across Twitter. ViralSearch tracks the diffusion of news, videos, and photos to determine exactly how they were shared on Twitter and to rate their virality.

ViralSearch presents the data in an interactive timeline of events, making it easy to see exactly when a particular piece of content's popularity peaks. The project also allows you to search for phrases, stories, or even Twitter users to get an overview of how individuals help to make content go viral. The system helps identify which users helped spread a story from one user to another, pointing out the most influential in a timeline along a chain of Tweets. Microsoft has no plans to make this into a fully fledged product for now, but the company is looking at ways it could help surface this data internally to its own product teams.