Here's What the World Would Look Like if Apple, Microsoft, and Google Were Countries 

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 30 2014 5:10 PM

An Astonishingly Intricate Hand-Drawn Map of the Online World

In the offline world, geography is everything. You can only buy what’s in front of you, only speak with someone who’s in the same room. On the Internet, though, physical distance is trivial. What matters in online communication is not where you are but what platforms and services you’re using.

That’s what xkcd’s Randall Munroe was getting at with his 2007 and 2010 attempts to map the world’s online communities. The Economist last year took a crack at incorporating hardware and e-commerce giants into a tech-world game of thrones. But perhaps the most painstakingly detailed schema yet comes from a Slovakian artist named Martin Vargic, who has posted on deviantart.com what he bills as the first map of its kind on such a scale. Behold, “the Internet.”

Click to enlarge. For the full interactive map, use a device with a larger screen.

Double-click to zoom in the interactive map above. Click and hold to drag.

Advertisement

No single map, of course, can do justice to the complexity of the relationships between sites, services, and entities as diverse as Google, Cisco, QQ, and BitTorrent. But for tech nerds, the map presents an endlessly fascinating schema for comparing and drawing connections between the various entities that constitute the online world. And while the potential quibbles are many, it’s impressive the number of things that this map gets right.

One immediate insight is that there’s enough pornographic material on the Web to fill its own entire continent. On one level we know this, but the media tends to ignore it, to the point that it’s rather jarring to see names like Xhamster and LiveJasmin etched matter-of-factly onto countries just across the sea from Google and YouTube.

The Internet map's nation-states aren’t represented precisely to scale, but it does take their Alexa rank into account, so that one can easily see which kingdoms are the United Stateses and Chinas of the Internet and which are the Tuvalus and Luxembourgs. One real-world dichotomy that’s reflected in the Internet map is the concept of an Old World and a New World, with AOL, Microsoft, HP, and IBM composing a sort of online Europe, while Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest form a virtual North America. And while it’s hard to say whether it’s on purpose, it feels appropriate that Google Plus appears to have no cities of note, though it does appear to be in the process of trying to annex Google Hangouts from neighboring Gmail. (Hold strong, Gmail! We’re rooting for you!)

One error that ought to be corrected immediately is the apparent omission of Slate, which I was unable to find on the map despite the presence of some smaller media sites like the Daily Beast. Fortunately, a note at the bottom assures us that this map is a work in progress, and will be updated and improved over time. (The creator invites supporters to donate via Indiegogo or buy a print of the map on Zazzle.com.) A more important—and less provincial—complaint is that the map does not yet reflect the rapidly growing size and influence of sites and platforms based in the non-English-speaking world, save for QQ and a few others. Still, it’s a great way to waste some time—which, if I’m not mistaken, is a big part of the reason we all built this online world in the first place. 

Previously in Slate

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Chris Kirk is Slate's interactives editor. Follow him on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Head of Security Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would A Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 2:31 PM 3 Simpsons Showrunners Reflect on New Fans and the “Classic Era” Myth
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms Off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 1:38 PM Why Is Fall Red in America but Yellow in Europe? A possible explanation, 35 million years in the making.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.