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An Internet map is like any other map in function in that it displays an object’s relative position based on other objects around it. However, it differs from an average map in a sense that an Internet map is not aligned on a surface, nor does it really show a physical location. It uses circles to depict websites, which varies according to its website traffic, and uses a bi-dimensional presentation of the connectors that links the websites, which forms the Internet as a whole.
The size of the circle of the website is determined by its popularity and the number of visitors. The proximity of the circles depicts the links between the websites, which means that websites that are often linked are ones which users tend to visit by using links from the other sites. That is why websites with similar content are often found in a cluster. The colors of the circles indicate the country.
The study of how the Internet physically connects to different computers is called Internet mapping, it has its counterpart in networking, which involves the study of physical network connections called network mapping. The Internet is simply a global interconnection of computer networks. So the Internet map is simply a map of different smaller networks.
The Internet map started because of the need of Internet visualization. Many projects were started, but one of the most prominent is the Internet mapping project that William Cheswick and Hal Burch of Bell Labs started in 1997. A year after its launch in 1998, the project started the gathering of different traceroute-style paths of hundreds of thousands of computer networks almost every day. They were able to include Internet data and Internet map visualization.