Giving the Web a sense of scale, a guy named Ruslan Enikeev plotted 350,000 of the most popular websites and 2 million links from 196 countries on a colorful, bubble filled map, forming a giant cluster viewers can zoom in and out of on a whim. As you get closer to any particular bubble, the web address it represents comes into view, or you can punch in an address in the search field and Scotty will beam you there.
It's a small sampling of the Web at large, and it gives you an idea of just how massive the Internet really is. As you zoom in, more and more circles come into view as if you're sailing through the solar system at light speed. It's also more complex than that.
While bigger circles represent sites that draw in more traffic than others, they're not simply splattered in random fashion, or at least they don't remain that way. There are unseen links between websites based on users jumping from one site to the other. The stronger these links, the closer sites are drawn towards each other.
"To draw an analogy from classical physics, one may say that websites are electrically charged bodies, while links between them are springs. Springs pull similar websites together, and the charge does not let the bodies adjoin and pushes websites apart if there is no link between them," Enikeev explains. "Originally, all such electrified bodies (websites) are randomly scattered on the surface of the map. Springs are stretched, repulsion energy is high – the system is far from being at equilibrium. Then the websites start moving under the influence of the forces exerted and in a while come to a halt – forces of attraction now become equal to forces of repulsion, the system has reached its equilibrium. It is exactly that state that is shown on the Internet map."
Enikeev's algorithm creates an interesting alignment that can be fun to theorize. For example, Facebook, one of the largest circles on the map, is surrounded by Drupal.org, Joomla.org, Android.com, HTC.com, Slideshare.net, HP.com, Google.com, Live.com, and the list goes on. Twitter, which is in fairly close proximity, is flanked by Slashdot.org, Nike.com, GettyImages.com, Style.com, SmugMug.com, Palm.com, and so forth. What does it mean? We're not sure, but we bet someone out there is trying to figure it out.