Visualizing Friendships: Facebook World Map

How many Facebook friends do you have? Do you have a lot of friends who live overseas? Ever wonder how these Facebook connections and friendships would look like if they were plotted on a world map?

Facebook engineering intern Paul Butler was curious with the locality of friendships among Facebook users and how geographic location affected their friendships. He wanted to create a visualization that showed which particular cities had the most friendships between them. So what he did was he gathered 10 million Facebook friendships samples, plotted the data, and came up with this beautiful image.

Facebook World Map

Facebook World Map
Click here to view the larger, high-res version of the image (3.8MB)

After a few minutes of rendering, the new plot appeared, and I was a bit taken aback by what I saw. The blob had turned into a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn’t represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while traveling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.

When I shared the image with others within Facebook, it resonated with many people. It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.

Btw, the image you see above was not created because the author plotted the data he gathered onto a map. The visual world map was formed by the geolocation of the different Facebook users and the connections they have with their friends.

If you’re familiar with the geography of the world, you’ll notice that some countries China, Brazil and Russia in particular, are missing or barely visible on the Facebook world map. The reason behind this is that Facebook is not the top or popular social networking site in those countries. Chinese use QQ, Brazilians use Google’s Orkut and Russians use VKontakte. Users tend to go where their friends are. Some parts of South America and Africa are also not visible on the map mainly because those are remote areas that don’t have Internet connection.

This image shows the power and influence of social networking and how it creates a world without boundaries, connecting people from around the globe.

What do you think of the Facebook visual world map?

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