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The Internet

Charting Virtual Worlds 100

Myrioandme writes "Since the inception of the Internet, cybergeographers have been trying to draw maps of cyberspace. The results have been mixed, but a new book brings together some of the most interesting -- and breathtaking -- maps of virtual worlds. Wired is carrying the full story."
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Charting Virtual Worlds

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  • Use the technology (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 1alpha7 ( 192745 )

    "We're still looking for the Mercator projection of cyberspace. We're not there yet. The map of the Web is still waiting to be drawn."

    Its the Web. How about ditching the paper and using a VR approach? As in, take advantage of tech, rather than just "appreciate them artistically".


  • by GoatPigSheep ( 525460 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @05:19PM (#2371406) Homepage Journal
    I suppose a geographer could look at the slashdot effect as equivelant to a 'random natural disaster' when mapping out the web.
    • I think that we should wait until the net is more similar to a Distributed-MMORG before we create detailed maps of it. After all, we currently don't need to try and find our way around the net in a 2 dimensional manner for which we commonly use maps as tools.

      Once we have more of a virtual world, then the maps can contain land, portals, regions with boundaries (private networks would be similar to a border that we didn't know or couldn't map what was contained within.

      As far as physiscal geography of the servers goes, this will become less and less of an issue as the physical content of the Net becomes distributed accross borders and servers. Of course, this is an optimistic view, but I'm entitled to it.

    • I suppose a geographer could look at the slashdot effect as equivelant to a 'random natural disaster' when mapping out the web.

      It's hardly random - in fact, it's highly predictable that whenever some poor website gets highlighted on /., it's basically doomed...

  • this keeps up, that the map of the internet is going to start to look like a map of the paths ways in the human brain.

    But we are not their yet. We are all way too much individuals to be a truly coherent group mind.

  • by deth_007 ( 122166 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @05:19PM (#2371411)
    Check out the latest: tm l

    It's also a good example of yet another style of internet map, different from those shown in the wired story.
    • Sorry, don't know how that space got in there. This is the correct link: tm l
      • um

        interesting. It keeps putting that space in there by itself. Slashcode bug? I don't know. Anyways, you can all figure it out, I'm sure.
        • Slashcode automatically inserts spaces in long words to make sure they wrap properly in nested view. Otherwise, somebody could make a huge string of letters, we'd get a horizontal scrollbar, and we'd have to scroll to see the end of every comment.
          • Sounds like a bug to me. ;)

            Perhaps a better solution would be a regex match on URLs that converted them to anchors and truncated, if necessary, the CDATA (but not the HREF attribute).

            Just a suggestion, as I've noticed a lot of broken URLs in slashdot posts recently, and it does get annoying.

            • Or he could have wrapped that in <A></A> tags himself and fixed the whole problem, --and make the link more easy to follow to boot.

              DWIM (Do What I Mean) sucks. Having a fuckload of AI just to save him the trouble of typing about twelve more characters is not a good idea.

              • So, my take on it is that if you're already screwing with someone's input, you might as well do it right.

                It's not "a fuckload of AI", it's just a bloody match operation-- much like the one that's already being done to provide us with irritating spaces in the middle of URLs he typed without them.

                And it's not as if URLs are ambiguously constructed, or as if it's particularly hard to determine what someone was trying to say when they typed one. It's a freaking URL. It wants to be an anchor.

    • Slashdot bug putting in spaces?

      (Use the Preview Button! Check those URLs! Don't forget the http://!)

      Try this link: l []

  • RFC 432 (Score:5, Informative)

    by mauddib~ ( 126018 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @05:27PM (#2371440) Homepage
    RFC 432 contains one of the oldest maps of the internet, with only a couple of hosts.

    rfc432 in pdf format []
  • Another interestring web site about that topic is mappa mundi [].
  • Is that second screenshot [] taken using 3DWM []?

    Filler. Your comment violated the postercomment compression filter. Comment aborted. Filler. Apple. Potato. Tomato.

    Which brings up another, slightly OT point, What the Hell is the Lamness filter supposed to accomplish? I mean with the AC posting, what great harm does the Lameness Filter intend to save us from...?

  • WebStalker links (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sparcv9 ( 253182 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @05:44PM (#2371487)
    Here is a link [] to Google's cached copy of a previous Wired article on Web Stalker, the software used to make the black-and-white Spirograph-esque image in the Wired article above. The Web Stalker software itself can be found here [], but for Windows and MacOS only, alas.
  • Internet cartography (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LazyDawg ( 519783 )
    The maps of the internet, while very pretty, are not very useful except to see how certain domains connect to others. What we need for a really good/nifty map would be a chart of the connections based on content or meaning.

    This would be pretty tricky, however there are a few things you could do to handle the meanings of pages without having a very complex AI:

    1. Run a thesaurus through a semiotic field, so words are reduced to meaning groups. Each word gets turned into a symbol during spidering. The meaning groups could then be profiled into what the subject matter is, regardless of the language or location, with reasonable accuracy.

    2. Assign a color to each major page class: Search Engine, Commercial, Personal, Regional. The content could then be made into a pretty circle graph like the previous one, and you could make it browsable on the web to spot the "importance" of certain sites as information resources.

    3. For even more fun things to do, make the electronic version of the web map reducible. Web portals already show categorical listings of web content, so why not make it possible to select different sub-categories from the higher levels and make the rest white?

    I think that a graphical search engine like this would be a fancy toy, and might actually provide a useful interface for old people and those with a more tactile/visual/geographic view of the world.
    • Your aboslutely right. The internet is a highway with a billion onramps and no offramps where traffic doesn't always know where its going but keeps getting closer and closer until it hits the money. So what's the point of spending time and effort mapping the project? It seems unfeasible, useless, and ultimatley a waste of time. Sure it might help someone find something, but to categorize, store, and map the internet out to the point it would become something like mapquest seems silly, and quite frankly stupid
  • by gusnz ( 455113 )
    This seems pretty damn cool from a desktop-wallpaper point of view, but how practical is this?

    The 'net is pretty fluid and dynamic, as companies are going bankrupt and starting up all the time. Soon we'll be able to build the map from just a couple of major carriers' networks ;).

    Seriously, these things are probably outdated as soon as they're finished. What are the chances of a real-time distributed mapping effort, where networks are dynamically scanned and the data is collated every few days on a few central nodes? It would be very interesting to see not just how the 'net is wired, but to view the shifting dynamics of traffic and connections in a handy animated format.

    Sites like Internet Traffic Report [] get a little bit of the way there, but are too numeric. Ideas?
    • So? Plug the Internet Traffic Report into one of these mapping program, colour code it, and let'er rip!
    • These pictures are quite intriguing and I will admit they are really cool, but the truth of the matter is that in real life, they cannot serve any practical purpose other than a fanciful display for the purpose of astounding the non-technically minded, or otherwise to serve as another set of cool wallpaper images (send those spatial diagrams to, will ya?)

      What is the primary purpose of a map/atlas? It is to help navigators or travellers find their way around, or to help know where they are and where they should go. Digital tools for this have existed almost since the creation of the internet. They are called portals. Millions and millions of surfers rely on them everyday to navigate the web, to get the information they need, to point them in the right direction.

      For me, this looks like a nice little hobby for someone who needs to do something new and creative once in a while. But for practical purposes, whereas a few techno-minded ubergeeks may actually succeed in using these nifty little diagrams for various purposes, they do not serve any major benefits to the generality of internet users. 'nuff said.

  • I think the next boundry in Internet evolution is a proper graphical representation of the digital enviornment. While a proper representation at first appears just as eye candy, further thought reveals it as an important step in understanding the relationships we have to the world we're creating...

    Dig? []

  • Wouldn't this be next to useless? Cartographers draw maps of the real world because they do not change very quickly. A map of America will still be fairly correct in 10,000 years time.

    Imagine what the map of the Internet drawn just 5 years ago would have looked like compared to todays?
    • Well, if the rest of the internet is built and maintained by compaines like @Home, there wouldn't be much change in the next 10 years...
  • If your interested playing around with some internet mapping software, Gnucleus will map out some gnutella hosts around you.

    Check out a picture of me running gnucleus. gnucleus.jpg []

  • by hillct ( 230132 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @05:59PM (#2371532) Homepage Journal
    They're nice to look at but is it really useful to represent the internet in this way? Surely there is a more meaningful representation that is of equal or greater esthetic value. Perhaps a rendering similar to the constructs associated with Everything2 []. This could be achieved through analysis and visualization of the relevence data used by Google and Teoma to generate their results, where significant material is emphesized. Granted this would not produce a network map, but rather a contant map, ilustrating regional housing of particularly meaningful or valuable content. It would however, include content available using any protocol for which there is a URL representation.

    Granted content pamming is not what they were going for, but it would have the side effect of displaying network topology with respect to relitive routing and bandwith capacities (utilization anyway).

  • "Wired is carrying the full story."

    Hardly. The wired article, barely 200 words, doesn't even begin to explain why someone would want to map cyberspace.

    This pretty old NY Times article ( 999.htm []) explains things much better. And I'm sure there are even better references out there.

    • Well, as long as the article fits on one page. Wired's links to other pages of an article includes code to break out of frames, which wrecks my web navigation Javascript frame, which messes up my daily scanning of favorite sites. Wired would be a favorite if it wasn't for that...
  • Why Oh Why (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vulgarDPS ( 525551 )
    I can see the use of Network Maps, ISP's connection maps to the Internet, maybe a map of the Root Name Servers and what ISP's connect to which, but for god sakes a map of the internet. It sounds like something they would talk about on an AOL chat room while being no where NEAR the internet.
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:07PM (#2371552)
    From over at the Cyberceography [] site they mention in the article, we're posed with the question:
    "Have you ever wondered what a data packet might actually look like as it zips along the phone line? What physical form might it take?"

    Now, maybe I paid too close attention to my physics and EE classes, but they might as well ask "What does an electron taste like?" (Yes, I know it's grape-aid)

    A conceptual map of the internet would be useful for helping to grasp the concept of the amorphous monstrousity the 'net is, but I'm worried that these electronic cartographers are going in the wrong direction. It's nice that 16th century cartographers put in all those pretty sea serpents and mermaids, but that still doesn't change the facts that South America looks nothing like that, there's a whole other continent in the South Pacific, and there's no Northwest Passage.
  • I thought the funniest part was when I clicked on the Amazon link from the Atlas of Cyberspace site [] to find out how much the book was, I then selected find "Loosely Related" items to this book. Some of the results were
    - O Brother, Where Art Thou? DVD
    - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon DVD
    - Microsoft FrontPage 2002 Upgrade

    But anyways, the pictures do look pretty cool.


  • by OnanTheBarbarian ( 245959 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:53PM (#2371665)
    These are pretty pictures, but in general, trying to embed this kind of information in 2-space (or 3-space, for that matter - adding a dimension doesn't really help) is mostly futile.

    I learned much more from the "bowtie" representation of the Web (that study that - roughly - divided Websites into a "mainstream", sites that linked into the mainstream but were not linked to from it, sites that were linked from the mainstream but didn't link back into it, and sites that were in isolated islands). That was nice, and used some smart analysis, rather than a huge dump of complex information onto the printed page.
  • by Theodore Logan ( 139352 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @07:03PM (#2371690)
    Not really just straight-forward maps of the internet. On the authors web page [], there's a bunch of others too, like kernel maps of linux and artistic interpretations of various networks. Some are pretty, go check it out.
  • by cd_Csc ( 151701 )
    You can get the software ("Web Stalker" aka IOD4)used in making one of those images at - sorry, mac and windows only. It lets you basically type a starting URL and then watch the map grow as it is generated - the image I got from using slashdot was quite interesting.
  • It's also interesting to check how the internet have expanded just over some years, thinkgeek [] has some cool maps over how internet looked in the years 1999 [], 2000 [] and also for the year 2001 []. These are graphs of how the Internet might look if you were a packet of data that were sent thru the bulk of the Internet infrastructure.

    Also read more about the company Lumeta [] that has a long-term research project to collect routing data on the Internet, it's called The Internet Mapping Project []. They have some information there about how it is done too.
  • by chrae ( 159904 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @07:34PM (#2371751) Homepage
    Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Internet Outback Safari. I'm your tour guide, Aligator Hunter and of course you all know my nephew, Crocadile Hunter.

    On you left is a tech company. While once they roamed this jungle, they now are on the brink of extinction. Similar to the dodo bird, they animals were born with no sense of self-preservation.

    You'll see up ahead the mating ritual of several humans. This is what's known as a porn site. Crikey! Would you look at that! That's the biggest mating orgy I've seen! Oiy!

    Moving on, we see Folks, I would like to take this moment to remind you all to keep your hands inside the vehicle and by all means, Don't Feed the Trolls! If my nephew C. Hunter were here, he'd get one in a headlock so you fine folks could get a closer view.

    This concludes our first leg of the trip. Up ahead you'll see a tourist stand with OFF flame spray (tm) which is quite useful to repell flaming trolls. Also, dont forget to pick up a colorful map of the Internet Outback. We meet back in 30 minutes. Have fun.
  • If you want the online version of this book, visit [] or join the mailing list. Also check out [] for well written and researched articles on related topics. Martin Dodge, author of this book, contributes monthly columns about cyberspace maps.
  • Imagine the problems that terrorists could do with something like the maps on and the information on

    Major trunk lines in many places. Granted, these often do not locate the lines with enough precision to accurately locate and take out, but they are a start. I am sure that a search of local utilities and maps available to the public could locate things fairly well.

    What could be done to secure these?
  • I think I just found a new way to wallpaper my apartment.. woo!

  • Don't forget Mappa.mundi [], they've been selecting maps and running features on them for a long while. A good selection to choose from.

  • It may just be me, but doesn't this one map set [] look suspiciously like the startup screens for the XBox? :) Microsoft is taking over the internet after all.
  • by Alsee ( 515537 )
    Has anyone else noticed that in this [] photo from the wired article there appears to be more web traffic at the north pole than in all of europe?

    Maybe it's Santa's database tracking the naughty/nice data on all the children. It's a pretty serious privacy violation to collect personal information from children under 13 without a parent's consent.

    "I'm sorry Tommy, Santa's not bringing you any presents this year. He's in jail."
    • Thinking too literally again: 13 yrs old is only US law. The rules under which Santa operates are open to interpretation.

      However, the traffic indicates that whomever created his infrastructure (router, server, etc) should be hired away immediately, this is a true Geek Gnome!
      • 13 yrs old is only US law


        Thinking too literally

        It was not an error but a deliberate choice. Based on the image US law appears to cover at least 90% of internet data. IMO 90% accuracy is fine for a humor piece.

        I offer my apologies to everyone in the international internet community, and I offer my deepest condolences to your children when the US government decides they are going to lock up Santa anyway.
  • Hover Your mouse over the left-most image on Wired, and it (probably - depends on browser version) explains that traffic is depicted as skyscrapers, with North America having really big ones. Just the type of imaging effect to use these days, I guess...

    • Haha, yeah. I had that thought too when I saw it. Skyscrapers are a terrible image to use right now. They symbolize vulnerability.
      But think of what you could do with the metaphor. You could represent Code Red and Nimda as passenger jets!
  • These maps are something I got interested in a couple of months ago. Check out the Internet Mapping Project []. Although they're not much use currently, they're cool for seeing how well connected [] your ISP is. I'm with telstra, they're pretty good.

    These maps could get much better in the future, especially if some new router protocols are developed that can report how much traffic is travelling through their individual lines. You could then colour code the links by traffic passing through them at a particular time. Red = very active, blue = idle. The backbones would be immediately obvious. This would also create a better map. The problem with the current maps is that they are generated using traceroute. This has the effect of making a few sites look very well connected when, in fact, they are simply the searching computers. By getting the routers themselves to divulge information about each link, you would get a complete map of the whole public internet. This may be possible now, I don't know much about BGP and its friends. Anywho, something to think about.

  • I suppose this could be used in charting traffic for telecommunications purposes, but otherwise, for a common user, it seems about as useful as charting a telephone book.
  • The guggenheim has a great online exhibit about this type of work.

    Enjoy, Michael

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...