What does the Internet look like? Is it computers or sub aquatic cabling? Is it satellites or code? Is it discrete websites and files, or is it just one branching, undulating cat meme evolving over time?
To Ruslan Enikeev, the Internet is "nature, sky, space, science, and fractals"—an image he shares on his website, The Internet Map, which uses an association algorithm and a Google Maps front end to show 350,000 sites as their own universe.
"For other people data and math is just numbers and tables, maximum graphs, but I can see more—its inner beauty. I have keen math vision. I can see how data is related in my mind," Enikeev writes Co.Design. "Unfortunately, you cannot just show what is in your head and I am not an artist to create a picture or poet to write a good song about it. So I started making the Map."
It took him over a year, with the help of Russian creative agency Positive Communications. But in the end, Enikeev created a snapshot of the Internet in 2011, when Google and Facebook ruled the roost—a point clear in their sheer enormity, and their position in the center of the universe, serving as an associative glue across the web. You see, all the positioning is "semantically charged," meaning that related sites are close together.
When you couple this association with the country-specific color-coding, you see that China (yellow) and the US (blue) are in a clash of control of the Internet, with Russia (red) and Japan (purple) hanging around the periphery. Pornography becomes its own galaxy that Enikeev named "pornland," a multicultural, Benettonian utopia situated between Brazil and Japan. But there’s some real practicality in the visualization beyond pretty pictures and pornographic hot spots. It’s a way to look at cliques and cultures online, to quantify unique visitors between sites.
"It was not my aim to make the site useful, but still you can use it," Enikeev explains. "For example, the company where I work ozsale.com.au acquired its competitor buyinvite.com.au recently. You can see on the map that both sites are quite big and they are in different clusters. Buyinvite is close to our main competitor BrandsExclusive.com.au. It means it was very good acquisition because literally we bought customers of our competitor."
And under that logic, you can see just how much the fierce competition of Google and Facebook plays out. They’re not looking for different customers as much as they’re looking to steal the attention of a shared pool—a pool that basically encompasses everyone already.
[Hat tip: FlowingData]