What the Internet Actually Looks Like

More
[optional image description]
GeoTel Communications via Fortune and Mashable

Here is what the Internet looks like: not a series of GIFs or a video of surfing goats, but a spindly collection of fiberoptic cables. The Internet, as a physical thing, actually looks a lot like a series of tubes.

We know this, of course, but it's nice to be reminded of the physical filaments that afford our digital connections. In an article in Fortune (which is, ironically, not online), the writer Andrew Blum and the graphic designer Nicolas Rapp joined forces with telecom data company GeoTel Communications to create a series of visualizations of the Internet. Not its content, but its infrastructure. "Most people have no clue what the world's communication infrastructure looks like," GeoTel CEO Dave Drazen told Mashable of the project. With the company's renderings -- based on data collected largely from carriers themselves -- "you're actually mapping the Internet right here."

The image above, as seen from the North Pole, offers the global view of the Internet's major cables. It depicts fiberoptic lines as they run between major cities, most of those cities also financial and trading hubs. The image below is a detail of the fiberoptic infrastructure of New York City, highlighting cable lines' revealing concentration in lower Manhattan. Inset is a picture of 60 Hudson, one of the city's carrier hotels. netmap1.jpeg

Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Did I Study Physics?

In this hand-drawn animation, a college graduate explains why she chose her major—and what it taught her about herself.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Video

How Is Social Media Changing Journalism?

How new platforms are transforming radio, TV, print, and digital

Video

The Place Where Silent Movies Sing

How an antique, wind-powered pipe organ brings films to life

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In