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A map of Facebook around the globe and what it tells us

Map of Facebook around the Globe December 2010

Map of Facebook around the Globe December 2010 (Click to enlarge)

This is a map of Facebook users spread around the globe with each line representing certain weighed number of relationships inside the social network. It is a fascinating infographic. Click on it to see it enlarged. Chances are you will spend tons of time looking at it as I have just now. The map was generated in December 2010.

First of all, it comes as no surprise that both Russia and China are not lit on that map. Both countries have their own social network applications, and in China’s case, Facebook is blocked.

We would expect South Korea and Japan to be much more lit. However, social media services such as those on cell phones are entrenched. If you have been to Japan looking at what teenagers are doing inside trains you will know what I mean.

If we look at the lit regions, I think this map shows how powerful the U.S. is in spreading American ideology and culture; how information is presented and consumed, and how social interactions are distilled down to individual features, all controlled by a single American company.

We have talked about in the past Google keeping the company’s page rank a secret. Can foreign countries trust Google providing fairness in search results? Think of Google as a gatekeeper of information. Do foreign countries want their views biased by Google?

Influence aside, I think this is economic competition at a grand scale. The more users Facebook have, the more revenue it generates.

Make no mistake though in 2010 when Hillary Clinton declared U.S. policy on Internet “freedom,” she is looking to help make all the unlit regions lit with Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other American web services.

When I look at this map, it struck me that the little guys have little chance!

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  1. Charles Liu
    January 26th, 2011 at 09:12 | #1

    Not sure if I share the pessimism. Corporate entities like Google are not so nationalistic.

    BTW, the faint lines out of China is still interesting. Seems FB traffic out of China show concentration to few places: Taiwan, Hong Kong, LA, NYC.

  2. Charles Liu
    January 26th, 2011 at 14:22 | #2

    Outbound FB traffic is also interesting. Beijing only seems to indicate it’s not average Chinese but expat, foreigners in China. Really wonder what VPN traffic look like in China.

  3. r v
    January 26th, 2011 at 16:14 | #3

    I would also not share the pessimism.

    Google and FB are both running into the new problem with too much information, that it’s borderline on SPAM.

    Funny enough, the next frontier of web information technology is PRECISELY “information filtering”.

    That is, people want information filtered for them. People who are lazy enough to rely on google or FB, want even more filtering.

    News are already filtered through layers of commentators.

    People think that China’s “Great Fire Wall” is counter productive.

    In fact, I would argue that Chinese internet companies are pioneering the next frontier of filtering, smart filtering, which all nations will want, all people will want.

    In fact, Google learned a lot for itself in doing “censoring” in China. And by stop doing that, Google effectively took itself out of the new frontier of information technology.

    *Yeah, it’s difficult (almost impossible) to censor/filter effectively. But that’s the same exact technical problem as finding just the right information on the Web. People and companies always try to game your filter/censor system.

    I simply pose the question to Google: if you can’t even keep some very clear groups out from your search results, how do you guarantee that your results are keeping out the irrelevant information?

    The answer is, clearly, Google pretty much failed the “China test”.

  4. January 28th, 2011 at 21:15 | #4


    I think you do make one very important point.

    As I mentioned in my recent post on wikileaks, a lot of these internet stakesholders are U.S. companies that subscribe foremost to U.S. laws and U.S. norms. Yes, these companies may be profit driven first, but they still respond very much to U.S. interests (as wikileaks demonstrates). One may argue that these internet companies represent “freedom” when one is really only subscribing to a particular set of “norms” and “interests.”

    For example, I heard someone on npr today talking about Egypt – how facebook requires (per its policy) real names – and how facebook might want to reconsider that policy for other countries such as Egypt where anonimity might help more with the democratic movement.

    I’m not taking sides in the Egyptian demonstrations. But why should facebook want to side with the “peaceful” demonstrators and help them skirt around the “authorities”? That’s the problem when people talk about “freedom” policed by corporate America. It becomes very one-sided….

  5. January 28th, 2011 at 23:19 | #5

    Yeah, even Japan recently had to “force” YouTube to stop the leaked fishing boat/coast guard collision video, because they didn’t think YouTube/Google would fully cooperate.

    We also see Yahoo being dragged in front of Congress and opened for public vilification for, really, complying with Chinese law.

    Regardless of what, our world is becoming very much interconnected.

    When I look at that map, it really jumps out at me this question of how weaker nations are able to enforce their jurisdiction over strong companies who “reach” in to their citizens.

  6. r v
    January 29th, 2011 at 14:26 | #6

    US often fear that China is using economic power to wage war by other means.

    But in reality, we see that US uses its economic powers to try to bully other nations into submission, or conduct subversion and espionage.

    US laws force companies to comply to US laws, even if they are abroad, or shut them out of US market.

    *But as the rest of the world develops, that might come back and bite US.

    Chinese companies doing business in US shelter themselves by different legal means, the most prevailing method is declaring themselves as “State owned” by getting Chinese government sponsorship.

    I would not be surprised if the US policies/laws will push more and more companies to seek the protection of foreign governments.

    And that would really be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  7. nic
    January 30th, 2011 at 03:57 | #7

    Concerning the OP, and related to yinyang’s remark …

    yinyang :
    Regardless of what, our world is becoming very much interconnected.

    … my impression is, that the picture as such highlights some problems of lack of connection possibilities. I’m not really a FB user (have an account, because I wanted to look inside — and never used it again). Given the latest corporate developments, I probably would not want to change that.

    But if I were interested in a ‘social network’ to keep in contact with former colleagues from all over the world, which options are there that are available in a reasonable way all over the world?

  8. January 30th, 2011 at 14:49 | #8

    “which options are there that are available in a reasonable way all over the world?”

    That’s a fair question.

    At the end, I think corporations simply need to obey local laws where-ever they operate. That’s the best option.

    If that is not possible, then citizens should use home-grown services.

    I think when you lump together ALL the services, including gmail, hotmail, Yahoo, etc., the U.S. definitely have a tremendous lead.

    Regarding Egypt’s riots, I wonder if Facebook would cooperate with the Egyptian government, say, if rioters used the service to coordinate their rioting at the National Museum. I read reports some reclics have been destroyed due to the riots.

  9. mateau
    April 3rd, 2013 at 21:45 | #9

    “When I look at this map, it struck me that the little guys have little chance!”
    When I see a comment such as this closing your blog I am stuck by two observations.
    The first is stop whining about how unfair you think the world is and the second is that Mark Zuckerburg was a young student when he created Facebook. And oddly enough the two economies of the world that have claimed to be the Peoples economy both reject Facebook. Why? Facebook is a true Peoples Social Media. Nobody forced the world to embrace Facebook. It was accepted and adopted by the world. It was an idea whose time had come.

    You seem like a smart writer, if you don’t like what you see all you have to do is build something better.

    There is an old Capitalist adage that runs like this.

    Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door.

    That is the ONLY American Ideology. Well maybe that we also allow anyone the opportunity to succeed. Maybe not all do but I’d still rather be living in the good ol’ USA than in Communist China, Communist North Korea or the the last vestiges of another failed communist state. The dark spots in the World are just that. Dark spots where the People live in fear of there own government.

  10. tc
    April 5th, 2013 at 11:22 | #10

    “I’d still rather be living in the good ol’ USA than in Communist China …”

    That’s fine. But this guy loves to live in Communist China so badly.

    No Facebook, no problem. It’s all personal choice. Who is in fear of who?

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