This Is What the Internet Looks Like as a Subway Map

Illustration for article titled This Is What the Internet Looks Like as a Subway Map

Everything is easier to understand when it's drawn up as a well-formatted subway map—including the Internet. This one, for instance, shows a simplification of the world's network of submarine fiber-optic cables.


Created by researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute, the map uses data from Each node represents a country, and the links between them the fiber-optic cables that allow data to flow between. The guys who made it explain:

The centrality of the nodes within the network has been calculated using the PageRank algorithm. The rank is important as it highlights those geographical places where the network is most influenced by power (e.g., potential data surveillance) and weakness (e.g., potential service disruption).


Some short links—such as the intricate networks under the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea—have been left out to avoid the image becoming too cluttered. There's extra information on there, too: symbols point out Enemies of the Internet—based on the 2014 report by Reporters Without Borders—detailing those who surveil and censor online.

You can go check out their full run-down on the map here. [Oxford Internet Institute]

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It looks nice, but I don't think that it tells me anything. The Internet does not much care about the shortest route from Station A to Station B. What matters is the diversity of routes between nations, and by leaving many of them off, it fails at that valuable goal.

For instance, I immediately looked to see which countries might, in concert, knock Russia off the Internet in the event of a conflict over Ukraine. According to this map, it could be done by Finland, US, Japan, and Ukraine itself. But after reading the post, I doubt this is true.

So if it doesn't show us the full diversity, what does it do?