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The Internet

Mapping the Internet 103

triple6 writes "No, this isn't spam. Bill Cheswick of Bell Labs has been mapping the entire Internet and then plotting the results, in color, on paper. The images are, well, stunning. Now, you can buy a poster of one of these images from Telegeography. The poster might be a bit pricey to use to decorate your dorm room. Personally, I'm going to wait for the t-shirt. " I just wish I had a little arrow that said "You Are Here". Those things are super cool.
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Mapping the Internet

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  • The Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis [] (CAIDA) is also doing interesting Internet data capture, analysis, and mapping.

  • I stand corrected then. While trying to get my head around your explanation, I did a little digging and found an excellent primer [] on HUD.

    Is there a formalism to explain the effect of observation on the observed? After all, it's a serious issue even in such non-technical areas as psychology. I would think that someone would have branded it with a name. I vote we call my (mis)definition the Jabber Uncertainty Principle. :)

    Hmm... Maybe I can mis-quote Newton, and apply action-reaction to sociology, in an effort to explain the partizan alignment dichodomy between the Executive and Legislative branches of the U.S. government. Or maybe to explain the U.S. and French revolutions as reactions to oppressive and tyrannical rulers.
  • imagine a real-time map of the 'net with load shown as a colour... every time a site is mentioned on slashdot, it starts getting redder thru to black, then cools again...

    neat, i dont even need to make it, i can imagine it
  • Where'd I leave my old physics book? Heisenberg may not approve, since (I agree) his work was on the quantum level, but I think my invoking HUD still holds because in mapping the net we're not dealing with macroscopic physics.

    My point in bringing HUD into it was that a comprehensive mapping effort would in effect be a denial-of-service, with lesser undertakings resulting in more accurate, but less precise models. It's akin to finding the bowling pins using a bowling ball. In measuring the network traffic, we displace that traffic. And in mapping the routes, there is a probability of changing them. How is this different from looking for electrons with a beam of light?

    Well, we're not dealing with subatomic particles which have a wavelike location probability; but the thrust of it seems the same. We are dealing with packets, which have some probability of of taking some route between two endpoints. If we're bombarding the possible paths with our own packets (traceroute), we're bumping the observed ones onto routes they may be less likely to take if we were not making any observations.

    Looks like a decent topic for a research paper, no?
  • That's cable and wireless. Since this was mapped using traceroutes, that would (obviously) mean that bell's pipe is from C&W.
  • because of this one problem i think his maps should look like a tree and not a star. with a tree you get the more realistic view of only ONE viewing point I like that idea. But you can tell that this was mapped from one viewpoint. That big bundle is where the traceroutes must've started. Since that big bundle maps to Cable and Wireless, that must be where Bell Labs gets their pipe!
  • I guess you can think of it as looking down at a (somewhat off-centered) tree from the top.
  • > I just wish I had a little arrow that said "You Are Here".
    You mean, like the Total Perspective Vortex? :-)

    Yeah, I could use one of those sometimes. It would have the effect of making the local environment that much more pleasant.
  • It was mentioned at the very bottom of the page (or one of the pages there, anyway). It's just an abstract measuring unit used in the mapping.

    That is dead clever! I just mailed the link off to all my friends in NF.
  • "The Internet has a diameter of about 10,000 pookies. "

  • Remember, a tree is just a graph with no cycles... :-)


  • Maybe we need to have a thing in /. codebase that auto emaisl any email href=addy on the page linked to :-)
    Well, that might be nice, for a while, but then I'd get tired of having to check my email all the time just to get to a story, and I'd get tired of having my inbox filled with minute-sized emails with only a link inside. oh well, just call me picky. or complainy.

    on another note, it did *thud* on me too.. several times. but da's ok, I got to see them, they're pretty darned cool pics. woo hoo for the net!
  • I can see my house from here!

  • Site's dead. /.ed no doubt.

    What if /. actually cached/proxied/copied these slashdotable sites rather than just linking to them? Hmm?

    The traffic stays within /., everyone gets to read the page and there isn't a trail of dead servers left in the /. wake.
  • It's not really a net mapper, but once upon a time when Apple still had an Advanced Technology Group, they developed a thing called "ProjectX" which allowed for a 3D representation of hypertext....sort of. It allowed you to navigate around your hard drive as well; drag your drive icon onto the program and explore in a 3D space. The technology didn't really go anywhere, although parts of it might have wound up in Cyberdog. I still have a copy floating around somewhere.

    I'm with you on the Gibson angle. Remember "Johnny Mnemonic"? Best part of the movie was the (admittedly fanciful) surf-the-net sequence. Why *shouldn't* it be that easy?

  • But... That'd take all the fun out of it!
  • ...on our faces. We're doing a bit better now, and will be doing a lot better in a day or two. The ups and downs of slashdot honours, I guess. Feel free to e-mail.
  • Hi ho NT goes
    hee hee hee ho ho ho
    what a joke
    that first line is...

    (come on peeps...lets keep this going!!!!)
  • Did anyone ever think about what these maps could be used for?

    If you ever wanted to destroy the internet, this would be an excellent map of where to EMP pulse first. And considering the number of people that put faith in the internet.... that's kind of scary. Kind of like John Brunner's Shockwave Rider

    You think aliens would use TCP/IP or Appletalk (like in ID4)?
    Gonzo Granzeau

  • The current maps are awesome, but now what needs to be done is to color code them not according to geographical location, but by ip address. Include a color key and specifically identify several routes on the internet. Then all someone would have to do is run a traceroute to that location, then use the color keys to find his/her individual network on the map. Of course, with the dynamic nature of the internet, this would probably not be useful for long, but its still a cool idea. :)

  • All these 2D representations of the 'net got me back to a thought I had in the days of Mosiac (while playing Doom). 3D interactive browsers, a'la Harmony, but without the learning curve associated with Hyper-G servers.

    Slapped out a dirty specifications file for such a creature, and it does not look hard to implement.

    Random thoughts: 3d interactive browser.

    1. must be able to interact with standard HTTP/FTP/NFS/SMB servers.
    2. Must function over a dialup connection
    3. Must be portable and extensible
    4. While true 3d interaction would be nice, must work with only a mouse and monitor.

    Render standard text displays on cubes or planes, render links as radiating transparent lines. Use some sort of force mechanism (link lines have elasticity, whereas pages have an repulsive force. ) to place pages in the display. Link lookup/display should be done ahead of time, using a priority scheduling system.
    Timeouts should be enforced tightly.

    Lookup/display sequence.

    Convention: A link is just that, a HREF; A page is a link whose images and formatting info have been pulled and displayed. IF; Images and Formatting information

    General rules for retrieval: Links will not have IF pulled until all links have been followed to the limit of recursion, and IF will be pulled in order of proximity to the user.

    Start link is retrieved and all outbound links are extracted.
    Each outbound link is retrieved, in a sort of 'call them all' way.
    Recurse. Each of the links on each link is pulled and called.
    Recurse until recursion limit is reached.
    Retreive IF from start link..
    Display start page and link lines. .
    Begin to retreive IF from the first order links, and display them as available.

    Implement a link/image hash table and cache to prevent redundant link following and redundant image retrieval.

    Now comes the hard part. Rendering all these pages as textures on polygons.

    I know that it is plausible, but would I be duplicating someone elses efforts? Is there such a beast? And if I were to code one, are there available 3d rendering libraries that would make it easier on me? Additionally, would anyone but me use it? Remove the sadomasochistic spam reference and let me know..
  • It is utterly amazing to me how much this image looks lik a fractal. Maybe it's no coincidence: the author of the maps may have used some fractalesque algorithms to create the images. Nevertheless, I wished I could select areas (like good ole fractint) and expand them -- snooping around until I found my IP space and finally my own servers, blurred to a single dot by the NAT firewall. THAT would be cool. Anyone want to conjecture as to the relationship between the current growth rate of the Internet and Moore's Law? (i.e., would a fractint-like, ultradetailed map of the Net ever be possible?)
  • This effect, whatever you want to call it, is well known. It was known before Heisenberg discovered its impact on atomic physics and lent his name to that narrow application of it.

    You can't measure anything without perturbing it. You can't measure the voltage on a circuit node without altering it. You can't measure the current in a conductor without altering it. You can't measure public opinion without affecting it.

    However, when it comes to measuring physical quantities such as voltage and current, the more money you pay for the measuring instrument, in general, the less it perturbs the quantity being measured. And one of the very important specifications of such measuring equipment is exactly how much effect it has upon the DUT (device under test).

    But I don't think traceroute has any spec for how much it perturbs the network while trying to measure it.
  • Come back later? But this is the Internet!
  • > Did anyone ever think about what these maps could be used for?

    Well I dunno, but I think they make dandy wallpaper.
  • Wow, Those are really cool but for 45 dollars I think I will pass. I thought I saw a site off of
    /. a while back that had another guy doing this same thing but his maps were downloadable.
  • If I'm going to pay that much, I want to have an arrow pointing to my node that sez, "You Are Here." :-)
  • Slashdotted?

  • I went to a talk on this subject by Bill Cheswick this past winter. The pictures that he showed were cool. He showed the different levals as they were coming out of his computer (first hop second hop and so on) He did give away some of these maps but i did not get one.
  • Um, I can't seem to access the first link in the story (guess it's been /.:ed), but perhaps An Atlas of Cyberspace [] (cheezyness alert!) is something similar. Pretty cool images there, too.
  • by Yarn ( 75 ) on Thursday September 02, 1999 @03:49AM (#1709861) Homepage
    CyberGeography [] mirrored: here [] and here []
  • Jees, I opened the story, saw 1 comment, hit the link, *thud*.

    Maybe we need to have a thing in /. codebase that auto emaisl any email href=addy on the page linked to :-)
  • Since the site is slashdotted, if he tries doing an updated map now, its going to be a pretty small map.

  • I think this sounds cool, though I'm not sure what "mapping the internet" means. What is it, a list of URLs or something? "Go check the link, Boole" you must be thinking. But, alas, when I went to check the link both were too busy. I'll keep checking back, but I think my point was this: Shouldn't CNN news have better bandwith than that?
  • Ding, dong the server's dead. The server's dead. The server's dead. The server's dead.

    I just thought this called for a little song

  • odd, that i still do, since just about everything else has fallen through the cracks from my schooldays..

    projectX was a good way to waste an afternoon trying to navigate a normally navigable tangle of sites and links.. i wonder what it would make /. look like?

    anyhoo, now we have these things called 'hyperbolic trees' that seem to do the same thing, conceptually, is that what this thing is? just a big, flattened hyperbolic tree of the internet?
  • I'd say that this is almost art. The colors that were used were rather neat looking almost like a spirograph, kind of output.

  • All they need to do now is add "You are here."
  • I was all enthused about buying one until I saw the $50 price tag!

    It is a cool thing to look at, but for $50 I would need it to be useful too.
  • Because their machines are getting a lot of hits from here, I really hope they'll post a picture with slashdot presence indicated graphically somehow ;)
  • $50 isn't exactly a lot, when you consider the price many other "artistic" prints go for. When looking for artwork for my new apartment, I regularly came across prints that were between $150 and $300.

    Consider this artwork, for either your home or office. Get a nice frame, and let it just look pretty.

    "During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I was riding the pogostick."
  • by jabber ( 13196 ) on Thursday September 02, 1999 @06:45AM (#1709874) Homepage
    Very funny. How about stating it this way...

    The action of observing traffic patterns on the net changes said patterns, thereby rendering the findings inaccurate. There is an inverse relationship between the attempted precision of the observation and it's detrimental effect on the results.

    In real simple terms, you can only measure network delays by adding to the traffic, thereby increasing the delay. You can only traceroute by adding to the traffic, thereby potentially causing a load-balance change in the routes.

    The act of observation changes that which is being observed. Sounds a lot like the Heisenberg principle, applied more broadly, doesn't it?
  • It kind of looks like constelations...

    Maybe someday we'll be like the ancient mariners and surf the web by them...

    "Argh! I belive we've rounded Sun's Crab and we're within sight of the Microsoft Dragon. Scuttle and plunder her boys!"
  • have you seen a bong?

  • There's probably a legal line or two that would make duplicating (even mirroring) illegal... especially when you get into the fact that many of these sites generate revenue from banner ads. Are you going to duplicate the banner ad functionality too in your mirror?

    It gets complex, and he certainly couldn't do it without their permission...

    Though it's a great idea. Maybe we could all just use a common that proxies these things. I don't see a problem with that...
  • I think it's cool how the patterns created by these machines almost mimics patterns created in fractals. I'm sure some math-person could give a reason for this. Oh gawd... fibonacci numbers all over again. Anybody remember the fractal antenna post?
  • I have to say that this is a damn good idea. Although you might run into Malda or someone else getting in major crap because of Copyright infringement or something along those lines, but I guess it's worth a try.

    I'm sure if SlashDot contacted the company / individual before they posted the story and got permission to mirror it, I think all would be ok. How about mirroring the site for .. let's say a week and then just pointing it to the normal URL.

    *shrug* it might do some good.

  • Well, Rob could at least fire a warning shot across their bow. Say, send an email to the webmaster saying: " We're about to feature you on slashdot, hold on tight! You have been warned. ".. and then leave it to the webmaster to make any and all weaks.

    I'm sure that would just send some of the smaller sites screaming offline for refuge for a while though.
  • If you've got a good color printer, you could get the (fairly large) images here [] and print those. Of course, you'd then owe Unisys $10,000, since they're in gifs...
  • Google caches pages. I would think that temporary caching of pages would constitute fair use. Of course, IANAL.
  • the search engine at does that for most of its pages, and it seems to have no legal issues. They have a little "cached" thingy next to most of their links. The reason for this is that any search engine database is usually pretty out of date, and if the page no longer exists you can at least see from the Google cache what it once looked like.

    your point about banner ads is a important though--maybe the caching mechanism could be written in such a way as to recognize banner ads (the way iCab and some filtering software does..) and to make those images direct links to the orignal file instead of cached?

    a better question would be how Slashdot itself would handle it without /.ing itself. A couple of icons and a massive amount of text thing, but if they also had to handle shipping out copies of these huge map images of the internet to ungodly amounts of people while the real map image website was down.. well, could it handle it? Maybe the caching would be text-only, and have the BASE HREF set accordingly. Then you could at least see an imageless version if the original site gets slashdotted, and it would solve the banner ad problem as well.

    anyway the point is, kicks ass.
  • 50 bucks for a more than awesome kewlist looking picture of the mapped internet is freaking outrageous. If Im going to buy it for my dormroom-GOSH DARN IT-Its going to get framed!!!! and an extra door lock... an anti-theft system on it...((i live on the engineering floor major geekdom)) hmmmm, maybe program one of those legOS boxes to be an attack dog or sumthing... cirix
  • Try a little history...

    An early sketch of ARPANET [] ap.html

    This is one of the very first maps of the Internet. Hand-drawn. Apparently scanned from:
    Hafner K, Lyon M (1998). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet New York, NY, Touchstone.

    I have it posted in my bulletin board right above a promotional postcard for the beautiful Peacock stuff.

    You can see Stanford, SRI, UCLA, Rand, Harvard, etc. Can we name them all?

  • by mcc ( 14761 )
    how difficult would it be for these people to distribute their maps in a vector-based image format instead of bitmap? would it be possible? it's all colored lines anyway. It might be large because it's over 100,000 colored lines, but you'd at least be able to zoom in. And the bitmap method makes it hard to see individual sections of the map..

    what format would work for this? are there any formats that would allow you to name individual points on the map, so they could distribute along with the map a [probably huge] automatically generated index of the IP adreses?

    would that kick ass or what?
  • nice maps, can't wait to put one up on the wall.

    i'm surprised no one has mentioned MIDS [] (Matrix Information and Directory Services) yet. They have been mapping and gathering statistics on the net for years. Of course, most of their stuff isn't free.

    They have all kinds of interesting matrix maps [] containing demographic and geographic data about internet hosts and users. I have one of these [] on my wall in my office -- it is a great conversation piece if nothing else. Much better than all of those posters with "success/team" oriented drivel.

  • They msut be using the new, larger Pookies for their measurments.
  • Should be either dark green (Slashdot's default: link="#006666" would work) or black (as in hole).

    Seriously, I bet it looks like one of those fractal generators. Any mirrors out there yet?

    #include "disclaim.h"
    "All the best people in life seem to like LINUX." - Steve Wozniak
  • Now I can not get to it, but on the map of the major ISP's (on Bell-lab's site)... what was the source of the huge green bundle at the top of the map?
  • If they mapped the 'net out to all the AOL users I think we'd have a fractle on our hands.
  • by Awel ( 28821 ) on Thursday September 02, 1999 @04:25AM (#1709894)
    Wonderful pictures. But `coloured by IP address` isn`t enough. What colour represents what address? It would be cool to know, cause that way you`ve got a better idea of which part of the map you`re actually in..
  • by boog3r ( 62427 ) on Thursday September 02, 1999 @04:27AM (#1709895)
    WOW. that is really cool looking. i wonder how he handled multihomed hosts and isps.

    he more than likely didn't though. with bgp you will end up seeing a particular host on the internet only through one of their particular links.

    the only really true (an impossible) way to map the internet is traces from all hosts to all other hosts. that way you get a full view of the picture, not one that is distorted by being on one node of the internet.

    because of this one problem i think his maps should look like a tree and not a star. with a tree you get the more realistic view of only ONE viewing point.

    that is still better than any internet maps i have seen before :) hats off to the men who do things!

  • Ding, dong, the server's dead. The server's dead. The server's dead.

    Ding, dong, the Netscape server's dead!

  • "The Internet has a diameter of about 10,000 pookies." Any idea what the def. of a pookie is?
    Anyone? Anyone?
  • You can always come back later.
  • I have to ask.. How does one capture the state of the dynamically routed internet in a meaningful way?

    I was the blurb about generating the images over time, and viewing them as a film, with each image being a frame - but that would make for little more than a documentary of what was. Interesting to see the patterns and all, but not really a reference.

    Further, doesn't the Heisenberg Principle make comprehensive mapping of the net a bit of a paradox?
  • but still pretty neat is Mapnet [] that shows the major backbones, peering stuff and pipe sizes.
  • We used to make sensor which had a similar effect...sadly it would adversely affect what we were detecting in a major way so we had to put empty coils on other lines to prevent it...which caused more problems...self perpetuating cycle...
  • > I just wish I had a little arrow that said "You Are Here".

    You mean, like the Total Perspective Vortex? :-)
  • I bet they're (peacock maps) feeling pretty stupid that they designed their web site almost entirely using *images* of text instead of simply plain old text.
  • The act of observation changes that which is being observed. Sounds a lot like the Heisenberg principle, applied more broadly, doesn't it?
    Sounds more like an inproper understanding of the Heisenberg principle.

    The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is NOT the result of the observer effecting the observation (though it is often incorrectly characterized that way). Rather the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a statement about relationships between particular measured quantities. It is a mathematical result of the treatment of wave functions, and does not have to apeal to the ideas of the act of taking measurements having an effect on the measurement itself.

    Assuming that the quantum theory is a correct description of the universe, the uncertainties in certain measurements are a fundamental feature of the way the universe is put together, not a result of any particular measurement method.

    Nobody has (to my knowledge) ever claimed that the routing of internet signals has such fundamental uncertainties. Data packets may well follow multiple paths through the internet, but they do not experience the intereference effects that are necessary to require something like the uncertainty principle to be invoked.

  • there are other issues too. I've looked at this map and others at cybergeography before, and none of them seem particularly useful.

    One of the primary problems (other than the one you mention) is that on cheswick's map, all "roads" are equal. there's no differentiation between the OC-48 "freeways" and the T-1 "dirt roads". (hmmm, can I do anything else here to perpetuate that assinine highway metaphor?)

    so, all the map really shows is lots of connected points in different colors. even though it shows a valid representation of real data, it is not effective in conveying information about the net (unless you're trying to figure out which ISP has the most nodes).
  • Damn are those Peacock maps sexy.

  • I think that if you are going to post an article to /. than at least mirror the important pages for us on some other server. I do, but my articles never get posted :(

  • This is another one of those first steps. How long before they say "damn. screw this 2d mapping stuff, we need more space, 3d time" and we have a visual representation of the net. Then we start seeing web browsers come out with 3d web surfing (need a new word here people) and then someone spots the power of 3d goggles. Before long we get the cool, jack my head in and the data starts to flow over like ICE. Oh yer.. pure data, hard data. Jack it in, let it flow out.

  • I don't think these maps are accurate or worth buying until they show this point - which is the very edge of the Internet.

    It would be like a map of the earth which doesn't show the Cape of Good Hope.


"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"