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Visualising The Internet

Faris and Noah have written a good piece for Contagious on data visualisations. Like them, I'm pretty keen on these "tools of understanding" (for a good list go here). To me, they often add a uniquely human (and sometimes beautiful) form to the neverending flow of data. And I can't help feeling that we've only scratched the surface of how visualisation tools can be applied and customised to better aggregate, represent and interpret huge data flows and even what it is going on right now.

So what about traffic on the internet? What does that look like? In terms of visualisations the one above is about as good as it gets. Lumeta, the internet security company, has updated it's decade old graphic of interconnected routers, the equipment that keeps data flowing around the web and ensures it reaches its intended destination. In that time, the number of people connected to the internet has increased ten fold and the map that once showed about 88,000 routers (the one the left) now features 450,000 (the map on the right).

Innovation and economic growth are becoming increasingly dependent on our communications infrastructure. But as the internet grows not every number gets bigger. As the WSJ points out, the equipment in the middle of the internet that has seen such huge expansion in capacity and capability was once owned by 50 companies but is now controlled by just 25.

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