What the Internet Actually Looks Like

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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

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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.

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