The Beauty of Ten Million Facebook Friendships

An intern on Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team, plotted the relationships of about ten million pairs of friends on a map.

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 travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.

Later I replaced the lines with great circle arcs, which are the shortest routes between two points on the Earth. Because the Earth is a sphere, these are often not straight lines on the projection.

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.

As great an advertisement for Facebook as there ever was.  Simply amazing.  Interesting that eastern Russia and China are largely absent from this visualization.  One wonders what this map also says about the spread of technology, internet freedom and access.  [via gizmodo]

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