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3D Computer Network Maps 52

beebware writes: "According to this article on C|Net, Tim Bray (co-inventor of XML) has launched which renders computer networks in 2 and 3D maps. It's currently running a demo off the ODP data. But will it take off? Will users really like 'country-maps' opposed to listings? (Incidentally Tim used to be vice-president of production at Yahoo! so I think we can tell what his money's on.)"
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3D Computer Network Maps

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  • I agree. I looked briefly at the 2D map ('net mapped onto Antartica), and it's not logical. Here are the problems I see:

    - Arbitrary mapping of categories to unrelated geographical space. e.g. "Computers" => "Northwest corner of Antarctica". This fails to take advantage of everything users already know in terms of information categorization, alphabetical listing, etc. It also forces users to memorize the random placement of categories, rather than having the computer do that (by logical organization).

    - Difficult to read interface. Having bullseye targets, text hyperlinks, a variety of region colors, black region boundaries, and a white grid all makes for a confusing and difficult-to-read interface. It was just too busy. It was necessary to intently study the sub-maps to try and find something, in contrast to Yahoo where I can quickly scan a simple text list and quickly find what I want.

    I'm hesitant to dismiss others' technological visions, since I'm usually wrong, but this interface concept seems doomed from the start. It throws out almost everything known about user-interfaces. It also forces users to mentally organize and memorize a random list instead of having the computer do that and then give users a sensible list.

    I hope they prove me wrong, but with Google's great searching and Yahoo!'s convenient categories, why would I want to memorize an arbitrary "Antarctization" of the internet?
    D. Fischer
  • I went for an interview there a number of months back and to be honest, I was SORELY unimpressed. Not only was the technology pointless and slow, the people in charge were so oriented on the 'coolness' of the product they were declining to see any that their business model was horribly flawed. Their intent at that point was to create a 3-d search engine based on Java, while constantly bombarding the user with 3-d in-your-face ads. They neglect to see that anyone who is searching for someone would be served much better by not having that search delayed with bad tech and advertising that prevented seeing the results of that search.

    Hey, if they manage to come out with something really cool and useful, more power to them. What I saw in that office, amid network outages, system and browser crashes, and immense egos, was that it was pretty unlikely going to happen.


  • Hint to moderators: If he isn't OT then who is?

    Don't take it personaly, pal.

  • by Accipiter ( 8228 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @07:58AM (#625270)
    Wow. I sure hate having to explain my jokes.

    Have you not seen Jurassic Park? Apparently you didn't get the oh-so subtle reference.

    Grab a clue before you post crap like this.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Since you all are obviously reading these responses, I do have a question for you:


    I'm not trying to be a jerk either. But I have to wonder, with the likes of Yahoo!, Google, et al, why is this better?

    Granted, the idea of web indexes is important. The idea of 2D/3D maps of what are essentially semantic networks is somewhat cool too. (Tony Buzan's "mind" (idea) maps come to mind.) But were those two combined aspects enough to justify the (probably substantial) expenditures that were put into this?

    What are you hoping to achieve?

    Please think about your answer. I have already seen the "Why" clip on your site (Answer: "Because it's fun").

    You'll notice the rather anemic levels of slashdot postings on this story. I think this item has bewildered more people than just me, so your answer may help spark our imaginations.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I wouldn't say we're all reading this, but some of us definitely are.

    In any case, "Why?" isn't really a question I can answer terribly well from the angle that you seem to be asking it. I'm working on it because it's given me a chance to play with some technologies (web clustering, etc) that I wouldn't get a chance to at my previous job (university sysadmin). I think the product is interesting, and the 2d aspects something that I might even use. I'm not personally convinced the 3d is more than a cute toy, but I'm willing to accept it may evolve into something more.

    The party line is that we're trying to make the internet into a place, as people have lots of builtin wetware for spacial reckoning. But again, I'm a technical guy. I find the search and 2d parts useful and the 3d amusing. More useful and amusing than other sites? I can't say, but choice is usually a good thing, IMO, and sometimes you really can't know how well something will work until you try it.

    Brian Edmonds, website operations.

  • Maybe it's just the recent proliferation of 3d UI related stories, but this comment is now as syndicated as NAKED AND PETRIFIED.

    This is getting a tad old.
  • This just shows me how much more valuable a directory-like listing is than these graphical representations of the internet (or any network, for that matter). I've seen a few of these graphical representations, and I admit they are cool ideas, none of them seem practical at any level.
  • Besides the obvious gripe of having to switch over to Windows and IE to be able to use the site, I was intrigued.

    The site uses the Open Directory Product Data but it does some fairly funky stuff with it. The graphs seem to be a pretty nice way of displaying the data. You can easily tell sizes of categories and how they relate to one another.

    They seem to use some sort of data other than the ODP data. The size of the circles seems to indicate the popularity of the site. I don't know where they are getting this data. Maybe they are doing something like google and seeing how many links to the site there are. That information certainly isn't in the ODP data.

    They are not using live ODP data and they seem to have stripped the site descriptions off. Also the pages seem to take about a minute to download and draw (I think its the drawing, not the slashdotting).

    Maybe if they can solve some of those problems I would consider using it as a nifty way to browse the ODP....

  • by Anonymous Coward
    They also have it organized by topic/genre etc.. Take a look at the map. Geographic(regional) is only on part of the map. Sites like Linux Today, Slashdot, Kuro5hin are physically close together if you zoom in.
  • Itemus, an underappreciated company owns a major stake in these guys ( isn't public) and a few other powerful companies. The stock is floating at a really good price these days, about $0.70 CDN (lookup ITM on the Toronto Exchange)
  • Thanks for the moral support.

    You are very much appreciated.

  • And the damn 3d view installer on win32 asked me to reboot, I closed the window instead, and it still rebooted. That right there made me say fuck these guys. Why the fuck should a plugin require a reboot?
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @05:52AM (#625280)
    There is a former VP of production (promoted, now has another title) at Yahoo who has a name very, very similar to Tim Bray, but they are not the same person.

  • >> Hey, wait....this is Unix.....

    >> I *KNOW* THIS!

    That's the first thing I thought when I saw the story.
  • by Accipiter ( 8228 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @06:09AM (#625282)
    Hey, wait....this is Unix.....

    I *KNOW* THIS!

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Not at all. Even though it may look like a gimick, it certainly is not. A map of Antarctica is a perfect non-gimicky metaphor for the oft-confusing structure of a world-wide network of data.

    A new search engine that uses a xerox of my butt as a map... []

  • and you just typed it wrong but got the URL right. What a lovely sense of equilibrium.

  • There are other visualizatin projects for the ODP that don't require as big a leap into a new interface and plugins.

    One is [] which reminds me of a hyperbolic tree but is a little different in representing category information.

    The other is a shameless plug for a visualization engine that I have created for the ODP that is almost ready for prime time. It doesn't really create a "map" of the ODP sites but it does show them visually as they will actually appear in your browser... it helps you quickly eliminate the wheat from the chaff when browsing the directory or search results. The URL is []

  • This is just another directory service, I couldn't see anything new, only the items were randomly placed on the page: wohaaa.

    Why do people always create new shit when there's good stuff like available?
  • And to add insult to that ingry... It loads an activex the FORCES the machine to reboot. No change to do it later.
  • i think the "Regional" area and the "Adult" areas got their labels backwards... if the internet was mapped out with proper ratios, i think there would be enough porn on the net to take up about 90% of the map... hee hee.
  • Just for something to do, why not type something like "two" into a search engine? Trials like that should give you a rough idea of how much of the internet is what.
  • Take a look at the simple 'internet' presented in Front Mission III (Square, for Playstation). It starts off with a general topic selection, giving you a list of selections mapped on a hex grid. Selecting one drops your point of view down a level and expands a second map off of the first, where there are more specific selections, and so on. You can bookmark a site (nifty feature for a PSX game) to save yourself time digging through the layers, of course.

    It's really a complicated 2D interface, but with the ability to open several subtrees at a time it could be very, very cool.

    (Although the game one is organized by country, which I think many of us will agree is the Wrong Way to do things.)

  • I have to agree with a lot of the reviews here. The map itself is not very exciting and it doesn't seem to add much value to the organization of information. In addition, it has a drawback in that it takes a lot longer to navigate through when compared to text only indexes. Plus everything was fairly cluttered and when I drilled down it came to a point where there was a labeled region and I couldn't figure out how to get into that region (it was alternative radio), although I could select the links in that region on the higher level.

    One new interface that I have been impressed with is WebBrain []. It's fast, exciting, and organizes and crossreferences information very well. I wish I had a project where this would make sense to use :)

  • You can't click on Adult?! I don't wanna see no kiddy sections...
  • Mappa Mundi, a good webzine that often discussed these types of visualization issues before it ceased production, ran an article on Tim Bray's Hyperlink Totems [], referring to an early mapping-the-web project of his.

    That was 1995. He's been doing this a while!
  • In addition to being limited to Internet Explorer users, this site lets you pull up a 3-D visualization using a plug-in. Unfortunately, it's a 2.3Mb download, and after the wizard installs it, you're required to reboot. I clicked the "close" box on that dialog with ... unpleasant ... consequences.

    Just so you know what you're getting into.
  • Thanks for explanation. My mistake you are not OT. I saw Jurrasik Park 2 or 3 times... Maybe thats me but I'm still not laughing.

  • way, way, down this morning, probably thanks to all the /. traffic.

    Yes, the /. traffic did expose some Apache configuration glitches that I'd not noticed before. Too bad we can't have you all come hit the site again, as I think the tweaks I've made should help it stand up much better next time around. :)

    Brian Edmonds, website operations.

  • I would, but since I run linux, and therefore netscape, I can't use your product. As far as I'm concerned, the same rule applies to products as webpages. If you ignore half (or more) of your audience, you've got a broken product. Limitations of the technology is not much of an excuse honestly. If you intend this for a global audience made up of more than IE/Windows users, then the product announcement should have been held until those very users could use it. Otherwise it's a pointless endeavour.

    Yes, your network outages in the past were your providers fault. You were running an office on Rogers Cable @Home version as I recall being told.

    Either way Brian, I don't have anything directly against your company or you. However the decision to release a broken product which only works on IE/Windows was a flawed one, most especially on Slashdot, where the general rule is "Support Linux". I wish you the best of luck getting this to be a workable product, though I doubt I'll know anyone who actually uses it as a search engine on any regular basis.


  • If you ignore half (or more) of your audience, you've got a broken product.

    Heh. So all that software that runs on Linux only is broken because it won't run on Windows? Sure, I understand what you're saying, and I'm disappointed that we can't make it work on Netscape yet (having been a Linux-only user myself since 1992), but I think calling it broken may be erring a bit towards hyperbole.

    However the decision to release a broken product which only works on IE/Windows was a flawed one, most especially on Slashdot

    I very clearly recommended that we not make any effort to attract /. attention until we supported Netscape, for precisely this reason. I would have also preferred a bit more real-world load testing before getting the /. load...

    In any case, SVG development is ongoing. It's an unfortunate reality in Internet time that things sometimes have to be released before we would prefer to, especially when there may be competitors working on a similar product, and being the first into any particular market niche is critical to a company's longevity. It's a balancing act between getting noticed first and not alienating too many people with things that are not yet fully developed.

    Brian Edmonds, website operations.

  • I think thinkgeek already has a mock up map available in poster format of the entire internet. Probably not as accurate though.
  • by beebware ( 149208 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:51AM (#625300) Homepage
    Sorry, the URL's been manged - try [] . Also I've heard back from 'my man inside' and it seems the 3D function only tends to work on IE5 due to XML implementation. They have considered using other 'display technologies' (such as SGML) but aren't sure which ones to go with.
    Richy C. []
  • Check out Purdue ECN Network Maps []

  • Is it just me, or is that a bad link to the site?

  • It's typed right but the URL is wrong, it's: [] as in

    All browsers' default homepage should read: Don't Panic...
  • [] This should fix it :o)
  • by onion2k ( 203094 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:58AM (#625305) Homepage
    Don't know about anyone else, but to me the ordering of information based on some sort of mapped goegraphic reference seems really mad. Its by no means logical to have to search through something based on where it is in 2, or 3, dimensions. If the challenge was to make an accurate representation of the computer network then they have failed. Theres no way that they could get any sort of vector information from the ODP so directions on the map would be meaningless. If they have tried to make an interface that is easier to use than the ODP directory system then they have once again failed. I couldn't find a link on their maps in ages, in the directory it took me about 20 seconds. If, however, they wanted to make an entertaining and technically accomplished distraction thats kinda fun, then I congratulate them.

    Maybe I'm too used to my simple 2D windowed interface, but I like it. Its easy. I don't think I need another dimension. Perhaps they'll prove me wrong.
  • Is this the same thing as the Xerox-PARC hyperbolic map thingy? BTW, [], where the demo is, is way, way, down this morning, probably thanks to all the /. traffic.
  • by Elyjah ( 108222 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:50AM (#625307)
    With Netscape you get:


    The client software currently only works with Internet Explorer version 5.0 or higher, because it requires 2-D vector graphics. We will add Netscape and Mozilla support as soon as the World Wide Web Consortium completes the standardization process for SVG.


  • Come on, there's no way you could do it that way... the pr0n part would overwhelm everything else!
  • Trying to get [] to come up, I stumbled across this directory []. (Nice when you don't set up your server to provide a default page...) Anyway, the two pages that I found most interesting are the help pages for 2D Navigation [] and 3D Navigation []. Not really the same as being able to interact with the map, but I think it gives the general impression of what it is all about. I especially like the discussion regarding sizes and colors of buildings (near the bottom of the 3D page) -- fairly intuitive, though I would try to keep the colors more consistent between building types.

  • ...If you ask me it's a bit silly. If it had to be done, I'd first segregate by country if you can and then separate again in a funky 3D way to provide related links between countries (remember we're a globe so all related links could transcend boundaries. Sorry, Tim, a bit more work needed.
  • Where are the 4th dimensional maps?
  • Note that a lot of the graphs seem to be drawn with SVG, so you'll need an SVG-capable browser (other comments suggest IE5 should work, Mozilla with SVG compiled in (i.e. not a nightly or milestone build) should too), or an SVG plugin (Mozilla prompted me to download an SVG plugin, that's how I know).

    If anyone knows of a suitable SVG plugin (for Linux x86) so I can keep using my Mozilla nightlies, I'd appreciate it. :)
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Computer Associates has had a product for years that does the same thing. I can't remember the name, but it just used SNMP info. to construct maps in either 2 or 3D (using an accelerator).
  • by LHOOQtius_ov_Borg ( 73817 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @05:02AM (#625314)
    A good visualization allows a good set of data to more readily be converted into the knowledge the user is seeking by analyzing the data. It adds information to the data through the visual arrangement, allowing humans - who are better at visual pattern recognition than numerical or textual pattern recognition - to quickly mine out the information they need.

    Wile the idea is cool, and the design is visually attractive (at least, to me), I find that the presentation of the information could use some additional work. The sites that are listed are plotted as points on a map of "Antarctica" representing the Net - but the distance between points and their relative positioning does not seem to carry any particular meaning (at least, the sites I linked to from this site did not seem to have easily discernable traits which would make the distances meaningful)

    The site is certainly attractive, but I think the integration of a system of text similarity measurement and positioning of the sites based on these metrics would greatly enhance the utility of the site (or, if this is already being done, it is not being done very well and needs improvement)

    Also, the site will not be able to grow very large without a better notion of clustering based on some actually meaningful site comparison metrics (text similarity, google-like popularity measurements, etc.), since in order to have millions of sites on the map the idea they have implemented of moving around the map will need to be combined with some notion of places on the map having greater semantic meaning and also to reduce clutter, a more dynamic system of display which allows for better "zoom in / out" type functionality to "drill-down" into areas of interest based on representative, canonical sites that would appear on the high-level map.

    All the beginnings are there, and it is a good start, I hope this goes somewhere...

    By the way...
    Anyone who thinks this field is cool, check out (if you haven't already) the books by Edward Tufte (I've put a reference at the bottom). And if you think you'd like to make some competing visualizations, check out this really great start-up data relationship viz tool company which my company is considering partnering with:
    Tufte's Books: s.asp?from=bookinfo&Au=Tufte%2C+Edward+R%2 E&Ti=&Su=&Pu=&RegAction=t&SearchFunction=reg&qorde r=title
  • Will the "map of the World Wide Web" be redone in VRML? Will it be displayed on a 2048x2048x2048 voxel display unit?
  • by Jon Erikson ( 198204 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @05:02AM (#625316)

    One thing I'd like to see is the Internet represented as a multi-dimensional map where each axis represents a relevance to a particular subject i.e. technology, media, porn or whatever. Of course the rating and choice of axis would be somewhat arbitrary, but it would make for an interesting reference and perhaps allow for novel forms of searching based on a set of criteria e.g technology > 0.8 AND media > 0.1

    Of course, who'd do all of this rating is another question...

  • by djocyko ( 214429 )
    Checked out

    Not only is this completely useless, but the goddamned Adult section is not even active.


  • That depends on what you are looking for.

    If you are considering moving to some other city, looking at a map to get camera veiws, business info, etc, around where you might live is certainly more intuitive than looking at search results.

    If you are looking for all worldwilde thingamajig wholesalers, geographic data is mostly useless to you.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"