Tech Bloggers Marvel Over Facebook World Visualization

A Facebook intern plots a world map using friendship data

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Monday night, Facebook engineering intern Paul Butler posted a now well-traveled image of global Facebook friendships. The map uses location data from a sample of 10 million users to plot a visualization of interconnected social-networking relationships worldwide. Apparently, what "piqued" the interest of Butler was the idea of "locality of friendship," or how "geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends." What results from his experiment is the visualization below (a hi-res version is here):

Naturally, tech blogs immediately dissected the meaning of the image. Here's what they found most interesting:

  • Giga Om - "If that's what an intern at Facebook can come up with, imagine what else would be possible with that data."
  • Fast Company - "What really boggles the mind is why Facebook isn't doing more work like this with its data, or least letting a select few use it--the company possesses what amounts to the greatest catalog of human life ever created"
  • Geekosystem - "Even if the world was dark and totally unmapped, Facebook could produce a remarkably good approximation of most of its continents' boundaries"
  • EnGadget - "Check out the bit on the map where Russia and China are supposed to be--is Facebook the most capitalist social network ever or what?"
  • Gizmodo - "Now how about repeating this process with all 500 million individuals as data points next, Paul? I'd like to see if the resulting image is still as lovely."
  • PC World - "Don't assume [the gaps in the map are] entirely due to government blocks; Facebook just isn't the most popular social network in many of these [blacked-out] countries."
  • Pocket-lint - "Very profound. Even if it is really just a pretty picture of the world. Albeit a world without Russia, China, Antarctica and most of Africa."
  • The Atlantic Tech Channel - "The cities best represented in the sample are across the United States and Europe. But Butler's map shows a surprising number of friendships between individuals in these countries and in Africa, South America and elsewhere."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.