Peer 1 maps the 'Net on iOS and Android

Grokking the scale, complexity, and evolution of the Internet is tough unless you have the right tools ... Peer 1 has built such a tool

When you're talking to a n00b -- say, your CEO or VP of sales and marketing (or maybe even your CIO) -- it can be hard to get them to understand just how big and complex the Internet is. Sure, they hear about the billions of people on the 'Net and all of the companies making money through e-commerce of one kind or another (which hopefully includes yours), but what they will often have a problem grasping is the sheer scale of the Internet and how it's grown. What they need is a visual aid.

So what can you show the n00bs to clue them in? Try a new free app for iOS (iPad and iPhone) and Android called "Map of the Internet," published just this week by Peer 1 Hosting.

[ IN PICTURES: The evolution of the Internet ]

A couple of years ago Peer 1 published a great infographic depicting a map of the Internet which was greeted with considerable enthusiasm and is still available online as a zoomable image, desktop wallpaper and a PDF. This map, dated Jan. 2, 2011, shows "19,869 autonomous system nodes, joined by 44,344 connections" (autonomous systems are networks under a single administrative control).

The data for the map came from the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), "a collaborative undertaking among organizations in the commercial, government, and research sectors aimed at promoting greater cooperation in the engineering and maintenance of a robust, scalable global Internet infrastructure."

CAIDA makes the various datasets it collects about Internet connections and topology available for free. The actual dataset used by Peer 1was the IPv4 Routed /24 AS Links Dataset.

The map was visually impressive and Peer 1 explained how it was created: "The sizing and layout of the autonomous systems [the nodes of the map] are based on their eigenvector centrality, which is a measure of how central to the network each autonomous system is: an autonomous system is central if it is connected to other autonomous systems that are central. This is the same graph-theoretical concept that forms the basis of Google's PageRank algorithm." Good to know.

Well, neither time nor the Internet stand still, and as groovy as the original static Peer 1 map was, the Internet carried on evolving even more rapidly. So to really bring the evolution and status of the 'Net to life, software was needed, and thus the Peer 1 iOS and Android "Map of the Internet" apps were created.

Peer 1 Map of the Internet

The Peer 1 "Map of the Internet" iOS app in Globe view

Now, while the new Peer 1 apps don't give a realtime view of the Internet, they are accurate to within the last few months and will be updated. Using the timeline view you can examine any single year from 1994 through to 2020.

The current version uses simulated data from 1994 through to 2000 (the data collected prior to 2000 wasn't as detailed or accurate as it became in later years) along with comprehensive data from 2000 through late 2012 and extrapolated data for 2013 through to 2020.

Peer 1 Map of the Internet

The Peer 1 "Map of the Internet" iOS app in Network view with the search feature displayed

The new apps display the CAIDA data in either a globe view that geolocates the ASes or as a network view that organizes the ASes according to how they are connected hierarchically. You can also use the timeline option to show the ASes that existed at a particular time in either view, zoom and rotate the display with multi-touch gestures, click on an AS to find its name and number of connections, search for a named node, find the AS you are connected to, and run a traceroute to a selected AS from your current location.

Peer 1 Map of the Internet

The Peer 1 "Map of the Internet" iOS app in Network view showing the AS I'm connected to

This is an amazing tool for showing n00bs or, for that matter, anyone how the 'Net has evolved and just how massive and complex it really is and thus the Peer 1 "Map of the Internet" apps gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5! Outstanding!

Gibbs knows where he is in Ventura, Calif. Locate your node to gearhead@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter and App.net (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater), and check out the Predictions blog.

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