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

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Americans' Inexplicable Aversion to the 1990s
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  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.