The Map of Facebook Connections

[giant map]

This map was created recently by Paul Butler, an intern at Facebook [via]. Roughly, the lines on the map represent Facebook connections between different cities.

I think we would best learn from this map if we compare it to two others. The first is the famous Earth at night picture:

Wow, they look pretty similar, you might say, after focusing first on the bright hubs of North America and Europe. But there are three major exceptions: China, Russia, and the Middle East. (There are other noticeable holes like Bangladesh and Vietnam.) Asia looks pretty dim on the Facebook map. Sure, it has India, South Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia lit up, but you can see a giant hole, devoid of light, a pit where, in many of the places, Facebook is banned.

In my previous post I mentioned it was no surprise that Mark Zuckerberg was named TIME’s Person of the Year 2010. But looking at the map above, we easily see that Facebook has not reached out to as big a userbase as it can. Speaking of users, where do they reside? Here is a map of population density around the world:

Again there is quite a close overall match with the Facebook map. And yet again, there is a disparity in China, Russia, and the Middle East, and in Africa.

We can also derive graphically that the percentage of people who use Facebook in North America. is much higher compared to the rest of the world. Compare, for example, the eastern half of the United States and the entirety of India. Though India has over three times the population of the United States, the Facebook connections in the eastern United States alone outshine India’s vastly.

As seen from the map, Australia’s eastern coast plus New Zealand also have a disproportionately high percent of Facebook users.

Before I finish, I’d like to show just one more image: the Facebook map zoomed into the United States:

Damn, that’s home, for me, and for most likely the vast majority of my readers. YOU are on that diagram. You probably have a Facebook, and you are connected to this virtual map. It is not a physical map. That was in an old, ancient age. With Zuckerberg officially recognized, named above other world leaders, it is an appropriate time to say that this moment, this year of 2010, is the year that we can officially turn back and say that we’ve exited an old phase of society. A new one, THAT one, in the picture above you, has replaced it.

No Surprise that Zuckerberg is TIME’s Person of the Year 2010

Just take a look at the numbers:

  • 2004 – 1 million
  • 2005 – 5.5 million
  • 2006 – 12 million
  • 2007 – 50 million
  • 2008 – 150 million
  • 2009 – 350 million
  • 2010 – 550 million, nearly 600 million

These are the numbers of Facebook users at the end of each year.

It wasn’t any one year of growth in particular that made Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg the Person of the Year 2010. If not for the political and economic concerns and recession in the previous years, Zuckerberg might have received the title sooner. (Last year, for example, the Person of the Year was Ben Bernanke.)

Perhaps there’s something magical about the number of 500 million users, which Facebook passed in July 2010. But if anything, 2009 was the year of social networking. In 2009, the more-than-doubling jump from 150 million to 350 million meant that the number of Facebook users had surpassed the population of the United States.

When I compiled the Legacy of 2009 post last year, the only coherent trends I could find were tech trends, specifically those with social networking. Some quotes, all from 2009:

  • Doug Gross: “This [2009] was the year that online social media exploded.”
  • John D. Sutter: “Engineers didn’t make huge improvements to technology in 2009. The year’s big tech names — Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon — all existed before January. Instead, this is the year technology changed us.” (emphasis added)
  • Sutter, again: “We could have done any of these things in 2008. But we embraced in unprecedented numbers a digital-centered life in 2009.”
  • Pete Cashmore: “One factor that’s dramatically different at the end of this decade versus the beginning: Ubiquitous connectivity.”

It seems that Sutter’s point about technology changing us strikes an even stronger chord in 2010 than in 2009. If 2009 was the beginning of a new society of mass social networks, then 2010 was the year in which we began to really surround our lives with them.

TIME this year is honoring not only a person, but a technology. And not just one technology, but many. Cyberspace in 2010 is a lot different than it was in 2000. In the meantime were the rise of blogging (and later, micro-blogging), Web 2.0, mass file-sharing, Youtube, and of course social networking sites. In the last 10 years, the only other Person of the Year relating to technology is Bill Gates, who shared the title with his wife and the U2 singer Bono in 2005. They were all recognized, however, not for technology, but for philanthropic virtues. (Not that philanthropy is unimportant.)

It is about time that TIME looked around and noticed, “Oh, society has changed!” By naming Mark Zuckerberg as the Person of the Year, TIME has honored not only one person in one year, but also, through him, the vastly consequential online technologies of the decade.

WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter

In the last three months of 2009, I have used all of the above. So what is the point of this post? Well, I wanted to reflect over my usage of each of these sites. Originally the title was WordPress vs. Blogger vs. Tumblr vs. Facebook vs. Twitter, but then I realized, no, that would be comparing ballads and limericks. Blogging vs. Micro-blogging. But I digress. Here is how I now view each one.

Facebook

I’ve had one since September 2007. Facebook is distinctly a social networking site, not a blogging one. One posts short status messages. At this time, there are two actions, “like” and “comment,” that can be done on these. It is very personal; massive amounts of individual pictures are uploaded. People can be tagged in pictures. Because of this, privacy is a large factor in Facebook.

Me? I suppose I use Facebook a lot. But much differently than I used to. My Facebook status updates right now are, ironically, links to WordPress posts from here. Automatically, of course.

Blogger

This one is what its name suggests: a blogging site. I’ve actually made two product blogs back in 2008, to provide official information for two WarCraft III maps, one that I started from scratch, and another co-edited. Sometime in October, I decided to create another one, a personalized one. I didn’t use it very much; in fact, I switched it over to WordPress. This very blog.

Tumblr

A friend suggested it in October of this year, so I tried it out. It has some nice concepts. It’s for blogging, but the catch is, you can’t comment on other people’s blogs, at least not directly. This makes it a unique, non-linear system. However, I don’t like it very much. I’m used to forums and normal blogs, where, to respond to a point, you simply make a comment. With Tumblr, you can instead “Reblog” a post, so that the original post will show up in its entirety on your page, and your comment will appear below it. Unique? Yes. But is unique necessarily good? No.

I know it only takes a few clicks to post a reblog, but it seems a waste of space to have the original post keep popping up. This is both Tumblr’s strength and weakness. It’s hard to make a conversation, let alone see one. Debates don’t work. Especially for an outsider trying to view the debate: on a forum or normal blog, one simply scrolls down through comments, but on Tumblr, one has to forage through a convoluted mess.

Right now I don’t use Tumblr.

Twitter

Dislike. Yes, it’s concise. But I find I use it right now solely to provide links to WordPress. To me, it seems Facebook is just a better version of Twitter.

WordPress

Amazing. It’s simply more powerful than Blogger. Plus, it doesn’t have the disadvantage I mentioned with Tumblr. Moreover, WordPress allows you to do much more than write a blog—it pretty much lets you design and contruct a full website.

Overall

If I had to rank these five sites for myself, it would be in this order:

  1. WordPress
  2. Facebook
  3. Blogger
  4. Tumblr
  5. Twitter

This is a totally subjective ranking, and may not be true for you.

Testing WordPress-Facebook Posting

[Edit: As of Feb. 27, 2010, WordPress can post directly to Facebook. The following post is now obsolete.]

WordPress can post directly onto Twitter, and Twitter can post onto Facebook via an application. This is an experiment to determine whether or not, through Twitter, WordPress is able to directly post onto Facebook.

Update: A link to this post appeared instantly on Facebook, so this two-step method of WordPress-Facebook integration does work.

WordPress Facebook Integration Screenshot
WordPress-Facebook Integration via Twitter

Of course, Facebook’s Note application has the ability to import external blogs’ RSS feeds, but it creates a note and does not actually go to the blog. The Twitter approach, on the other hand, gives the blog post title and the short link to the actual WordPress article:

Notice too that, even though this method uses Twitter as a middleman, neither the original WordPress article nor the resulting Facebook status links to the Twitter post. Hence, even a totally inactive Twitter account can be used for this method of WordPress-Facebook integration.