Munroe's map for social networks’ lost souls

A cult cartoonist hopes his new chart gives the web a human dimension

In 1507 the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced what is generally considered to be the first complete map of the world. His rudimentary chart proved an invaluable travelling companion for countless intrepid explorers. It remains to be seen if Randall Munroe's map of the internet will be quite so useful.

Proving that having time on your hands and an internet connection can be a dangerous thing, the university graduate from Massachusetts appears to have spent chunks of this year compiling a map that equates the relative size of social networking sites to fictional countries.

Far from being arbitrarily scattered across the globe, each website has been carefully assigned a seemingly mythical country whose land mass equates relatively to the site's popularity. As Mr Munroe (it is unclear if this is his real name or an internet pseudonym) explains: "This updated map uses size to represent to represent total social activity in a community – that is, how much talking playing, sharing or other socialising happens there. This meant some comparing of apples and oranges, but I did my best to be consistent."

Explaining the work that went into his project, completed last summer, he adds: "Estimates are based on the best numbers I could find, but involved a great deal of guesswork, statistical interference, random sampling, nonrandom sampling, a 20,000-cell spreadsheet...and gut instinct (ie making things up).

Mr Munroe is billed on his Wikipedia page as "an American webcomic author and former Nasa roboticist, as well as a programmer [who is] best known as the creator of the webcomic xkcd".

"Best known" may be something of a stretch for anyone not familiar with the outer reaches of the internet but xkcd has been his full-time job since leaving Nasa in 2006, and is a hit cult phenomenon that gains up to 70 million hits a month.

In a 2007 article in Wired, Munroe's webcomic (which is populated with drawings of lovesick stick figures) is billed as a resource that "revels in the human side of geekdom", and represents "a way for people who are unpracticed at talking about their emotions to articulate them".

Since it was founded in 2005, xkcd has garnered a loyal band of followers, many of whom have gathered in the real world to act out scenes from his comic strips. In one, an enigmatic dream girl leaves the comic's hero with a set of co-ordinates for a location, and a future time at which she wished to meet. The directions also led to a real place and a real time, and at 2.38pm on 23 September 2007, 1,000 of Munroe's fans from as far afield as Britain and Canada converged on a park in North Cambridge, Massachusetts. As the clock ticked over, Munroe appeared and addressed the crowd.

Munroe still draws his stick men, but his latest work is about the relationships between sites rather than people. Perhaps unsurprisingly given its ubiquity, Facebook occupies the largest landmass on his social networking map, and includes the "plains of awkward public family interactions". Twitter and YouTube are given honourable status, but spare a thought for MySpace.

The site was once the most popular social networking location on the internet and was bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in July 2005. Since then its popularity has waned and it now sits 30th on the Alexa internet traffic rank.

On Mr Munroe's Map of Online Communities it occupies a humble location next to LinkedIn.

Other notable inclusions include QQ, a Chinese instant messaging system which has more than 100 million users. Never heard of it? Then grab the map and start exploring.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine