G. Cormode and M. Hadjieleftheriou. Finding the frequent items in streams of data. Communications of the ACM (CACM), 52(10):97-105, 2009.

The frequent items problem is to process a stream of items and find all those which occur more than a given fraction of the time. It is one of the most heavily studied problems in mining data streams, dating back to the 1980s. Many other applications rely directly or indirectly on finding the frequent items, and implementations are in use in large scale industrial systems. In this paper, we describe the most important algorithms for this problem in a common framework. We place the different solutions in their historical context, and describe the connections between them, with the aim of clarifying some of the confusion that has surrounded their properties.

To further illustrate the different properties of the algorithms, we provide baseline implementations. This allows us to give empirical evidence that there is considerable variation in the performance of frequent item algorithms. The best methods can be implemented to find frequent items with high accuracy using only tens of kilobytes of memory, at rates of millions of items per second on cheap modern hardware.

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