Thursday, April 1, 2010

Where In The Web?

Urban sprawl has nothing on the Internet, in terms of breadth, depth, hidden gems – and frequently, confusion. With new facts and figures coming out every other day on its vast scope, it can be hard get a sense of the big picture.

The BBC recently showcased a set of graphics to illustrate the Internet visually. It’s like a bird’s eye view of the 100 biggest websites, sized proportionate to the number of their unique visitors, and organized according to function. After taking a look, I was interested to see how these all fit together objectively. As Steve Rubel recently put it, “no two people see the same Internet” – we’re all exploring different avenues of information, engaging in different conversations – and it can be easy to underestimate the activity going on outside our favourite websites. While for me search may equal “Google”, actually about two-thirds of search traffic goes elsewhere, to sites like Microsoft, Yahoo!, and AOL. And while social networking sites get the most media buzz, in terms of web traffic they’re riding behind categories like retail, software and news media.

While the simplicity of the BBC model can’t be beat, iA’s Web Trend Map is a stylish alternative if you can handle some more detail. This plots the web’s hotspots on to the Tokyo Metro map, taking into account traffic, revenue, age, owner and character. I like the quirky approach the designers took to match up the sites with their corresponding train spots too, “Twitter is located in Shibuya, the train station with the biggest buzz” and Google (of course) is placed at the same spot as the most highly trafficked metro station in the world, Shinjuku.

Of course, the online space is constantly changing and there’s never going to be a finished map. But these imaginings are much more intuitive than a standard table of numbers, and a great way to give some weight and context to the mass of information out there – before you head out to create and explore new unchartered territory of your own.