Map Of The Internet Exposes The Lie That 'Big Tech' Controls The Internet

from the it's-a-wide-wide-world-wide-web dept

To hear many people talk about things, the entire internet these days is controlled by just a few companies, mainly Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Depending on who you’re talking to, you may hear them throw in companies like Netflix. But some of us keep pointing out that while those guys are big, that doesn’t mean the rest of the internet stops existing. And it’s still incredibly large. If you want this point really driven home, check out this amazing map of the 2021 internet by Martin Vargic (first spotted via Fast Company).

Here’s a thumbnail version, but you really should go check out the full size version on Martin’s website (or, better yet, buy some prints of the whole thing).

Just the fact that looking at this smaller version above it’s nearly impossible to read what most of the “countries” are should give you just a taste of how vast the non-big-tech part of the world wide web really is. There’s a lot of “land” out there that isn’t controlled by the big players, and we should be celebrating that. On his website he’s got a few zoomed in examples as well, including the part that is my favorite: “Protocol Ocean.”

Now some may quibble with various aspects of this. It’s based on Alexa data, which isn’t the most reliable, and it’s only covering web traffic, which likely misses a lot of activity that is purely mobile these days. But still, when laid out this way, you really begin to get a sense of the diversity of the web.

The other thing that really stands out for me is that this is an updated map by Vargic. He last produced a map of the internet in 2014 and it looks strikingly different. It seems like a strong visual reminder of just how much the internet keeps changing, even in the fairly short time frame of seven years.

There seems to be this belief among some that the internet has been more or less stuck in place since 2010 when Google, Facebook, and Amazon divided the land between them and wiped the rest of the web off the map. But that was never true, and these maps really drive that point home in a very visual manner.

For what it’s worth, if you love getting lost looking at maps like I do, Vargic’s entire page is fascinatingly full of maps he’s created, many of which explore aspects of actual geography, and plenty of others (like the internet maps) that explore other concepts in map form.

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Companies: amazon, facebook, google

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Comments on “Map Of The Internet Exposes The Lie That 'Big Tech' Controls The Internet”

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51 Comments
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Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: What about hosting

Cloudflare is there. Just take a closer look.

It indicates how much traffic goes to Cloudfare’s websites, not the CDN it runs that host (caches) other people’s data.

The way Cloudflare and other similar CDNs work is they take delegation of IPs owned by, for example Walmart. That means that as far as web metrics are concerned, you are visiting Walmart, as it’s Walmart’s IP addresses, Walmart’s DNS, Walmart’s website, but the physical hardware the data is coming from is Cloudfare’s, as the internet routing tables direct the traffic for that Walmart-owned IP address to Cloudflares infrastructure.

Note that Alexa metrics also only care about the ‘website’, i.e. forbes.com, not the IP addresses underlying that, which might be dozens of pooled addresses underlying that that each runs on a different hosting provider. Even if 1 access load balances/round robin DNSes to AWS, then another access of the same site gets directed to Azure, and yet another gets directed to IBM’s cloud service, Alexa will pool them all into "forbes.com" because, well, they are all access of the Forbes website, even though they are hosted in (at least) three different datacenters provided by 3 different hosting services which might be on three different continents.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: What about hosting

Hosting would be a completely different map. Maybe the map could be rearranged to include hosting as part of the criteria chosen to create the landmasses and create countries/states based on the hosting, but I’d guess that’s beyond the scope of this particular exercise.

I’d imagine that when you start including stuff like that, it’s also going to be a tough call whether to treat "traditional" hosting providers differently to cloud-based providers, whether to include hosting services that host a lot of content but don’t host full websites as such (how do you deal with GitHub or Blogger, for example), and so forth. Also, how to treat "traditional" webhosts like GoDaddy vs. an Azure k8s platform that someone happens to be running their website from. It seems like quite a complicated design issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Key Nodes

Big Systems can be controlled by having control of much smaller choke points within the larger system.

The sheer size of a system does not reveal its key control nodes upon which its functionality depends.
Software controlled systems are especially vulnerable to very small control node adjustments — consider the massive Colonial Pipeline infrastructure and how easilu it was disabled.

Red China CCP is very good at controlling its internal internet — that type of control could easil scale-up to international levels.

Maps are simple models of a much larger reality — often useful, but severely limited.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Key Nodes

I agree. Sorry Mike, but the maps displayed have very little to say about who controls the Internet when significant sites can be shutdown out of hand by players collectively known as ‘big tech’ or in some cases government censorship (which in the US is becoming much the same thing).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Roy_Hinkley says:

Re: Re: Key Nodes

"very little to say"?

I think you raise a good intellectual question about control nodes that warrants further study, and I’d love to see a similar map depicting those effects. Got data?

Otherwise, your dismissive conclusions are just more popular activism against the big tech/big government boogeyman. OK, boomer.

It seems to me Mike Masnick has made a far stronger case here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Key Nodes

The map has nothing to do with the conspiracy theories above. It’s about the consumer market for "web", and indirectly, how that relates to the conspiracy theory about who "controls" the putative "public square" of user-generated content, as well as search, advertising, and commerce, when the "anti-big-tech" crowd decides it needs something outside the freeze peach zone for its public performance art.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Key Nodes

"significant sites can be shutdown out of hand by players collectively known as ‘big tech’"

You people can whine all you want, but until you start including ISPs in that term, your words are meaningless. If you complain about the power Google have, but defend the extra power that something like Comcast has, you aren’t addressing reality.

"in some cases government censorship (which in the US is becoming much the same thing)"

I’m sure you’ll be along with actual examples of US government censorship any moment now (no, people being kicked off private property by their owners doesn’t count).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Key Nodes

I’m sorry but that is completely nonsensical. Size had nothing to do with the colonial pipeline ransomware hack as terrible as SolarWinds is. The disabling could have been trivially stopped by proper backup process as a minor hiccup.

Control is also being used in utterly different contexts of significantly different meanings.

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ladyattis (profile) says:

If there’s any monopoly on the Internet it’s mostly around advertising to be quite honest. Hosting, search (even there), and social media seem to have a wide selection. Some are crap but some are oddly good in their niche. Like I wouldn’t go to AWS to spin up a MUD server or a webpage as there’s way cheaper hosts for such low resource use cases. Also, I think mobile is a whole different can of worms as you mention. I think there’s definitely a duopoly there which I don’t know if traditional antitrust can fix the problem. Fragmentation of the app stores don’t seem to me a good idea or really a solution at all but that’s just me.

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Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Misguided reup

Here’s the thing missing in traffic maps.
Google is a dictionary term for a reason.
It’s the leading search engine with over 80% of all searches.
Bing, my preference, is a distant second

Twitter, Facebook, and VK make up over 90% of social media reach.

Files, download, and the ZD group make up over 90% of downloads.

YouTube, Daily, and VK make up 90% of user content streaming.

Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo, and Vudu make up 95% of commercial video.

Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and OneRadio make up 99% of commercial audio.

Amazon, ebay, and Alibaba cover 98% of direct to consumer multi-source sales.

All numbers from Nielsen: paid subscription required.

Just because there’s millions of direct to consumer multi source companies doesn’t mean there’s any competition.

Does Jack And Jill hardware compete with Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Ace?
Does Dick and Jain Produce compete with Walmart, Meijer, and Albertson’s etc?

Through click percentages is very different than global presence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Misguided reup

Does Jack And Jill hardware compete with Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Ace?
Does Dick and Jain Produce compete with Walmart, Meijer, and Albertson’s etc?

And how exactly would you propose to level the playing field?

Would Jack & Jill hardware be forced to carry a wider selection or would Home Depot, Lowes, & Ace be forced to carry less of a selection?

Would Dick & Jane produce be forced to lower their prices or would Walmart, Meijer, & Albertson’s be forced to raise theirs?

This doesn’t sound like the free-market capitalist business-friendly environment that would in turn, empower the consumer to take their business elsewhere if they didn’t like the choices…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Misguided reup

"You mistook my statements to have intentions."

If you didn’t intend to mean anything by your statements, why did you spend so much time typing nonsense about how different industry sectors are dominated by companies that don’t actually dominate them in the way you claimed? Sure, you listed a bunch of companies that are large in those sectors, but 90-99% dominant? You make the claim, you should expect to cite the source of the figures.

"What I’m against is protectionism"

What I’m against is people pulling figures out of their asses to try and push a political point where the real facts don’t support their claims. You linked to a sales site offering fluff about "taking control of your brand", then after promising figures hidden behind that, you failed to deliver. I suspect that it’s because either the source doesn’t say what you claimed, you editorialised leaving obvious mistakes, or you realised how silly it was to only consider US figures in a discussion about the global internet, but the lack of followup is notable.

Although, to answer the point you seem to have been making – of course small independent businesses are competing with larger conglomerates. If a person needs a hammer and they have to choose between the big box store, Amazon or their local hardware store, they only need one hammer so they are competing with each other for that purchase. How are they not? They’re not direct competitors for every conceivable purchase, but they certain are competing, even if the smaller guys have to compete based on something other than price.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Misguided reup

"Funny, most international complaints I’ve seen cover interventionism"

They are good points, but they don’t have anything to do with the article here. All that matters here is that you attempted to lie, got called on it, and whine instead of presenting figures that you claimed to have. That works in the Murdoch sphere, but not with intelligent people, even in the US.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Misguided reup

"Again, I live in the US. What happens in Luther countries is of minimal interest to me."

Which makes you particularly stupid to claim that 95% of commercial video on the global internet (as per the subject of the article) happens through sites that don’t service anyone outside of the US. Your figures are probably complete nonsense anyway since you didn’t even consider Crackle, Tubi, Disney+, Hulu, Criterion, CBS, Mubi and who knows how many other US-centric sites you chose to ignore to make your idiotic point. But, your insistence in pretending that 4% of the world population is all that matters on a global scale says more than you intended it to. I await your proof that Disney doesn’t make up more than 5% of even the US market, but I’m going to guess your figures don’t show that, even if you had figures in the first place.

"I care about my country. I don’t care about other countries."

Which is presumably why you support so many things damaging to it, just because someone told you to believe in fake patriotism. The real world involves borders and trade, look into it.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Misguided reup

Backlink puts Disney+ around 10mil. Total
https://backlinko.com/disney-users
So much for 5% of the us market, eh?

Crackle and Tubi are rarely officially counted. Like YouTube numbers are based on what the companies state and bandwidth measurements.

Hulu has been falling, over all, For years.
https://www.fiercevideo.com/video/hulu-live-tv-loses-100-000-subscribers
Single shows or film offerings cause temporary bumps.

The broadcast relays are tiny drops in the system wide bucket. CBS, NBC, PBS.

Service like Criterion, Mini, Eros, Shudder, etc, all have their highest subscription rates through third party
Platforms: such as Amazon Prime Video.
I haven’t seen anyone do a breakdown that sorts 3rd party use from first party signups.
Or, to count them we would need exact numbers to remove those subscriptions from 3rd party channel counts.

I can’t find numbers for Mubi, nor for Celestial.
I’m working on other public links.
I didn’t lie, I simply went the the numbers provided by one of the largest survey and monitoring companies.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Misguided reup

"Backlink puts Disney+ around 10mil. Total"

FFS, are you capable of even reading your own links?

"Disney+ has an 18% share of subscription video on demand (SVOD) subscriptions in the US."
"In the final quarter of 2020, Disney+ accounted for 6% of all subscription streaming time in the US."

The only times 10 million is mentioned is as the number of times the app was download on its first day and the total number of subscribed in November 2019.

"Hulu has been falling, over all, For years."

Yet, using the source you hilariously failed to use to back up your own bullshit with:

https://backlinko.com/hulu-users

"Today, Hulu has 39.4 million paying subscribers and nearly 100 million total viewers."
"In the last two years (2018-2020), Hulu has added 37.5 million new viewers."

Oh, and the link you posted to "prove" failing viewership was referring directly to live TV viewers, not overall streaming viewership – which, you may notice, was what your original bullshit claim was referring to. Or, at least, that’s what the title of the link suggests, the actual link as posted doesn’t work.

"Service like Criterion, Mini, Eros, Shudder, etc, all have their highest subscription rates through third party"

They do, which is part of the reason why I asked for figures, since you made a claim that suggested you had them. If guess not.

"I didn’t lie"

No, apparently you lost the ability to read when you were finally asked to provide proof. Whether you had even bothered looking at real figures before being challenged on them is open to question, although I suspect you were just making shit up and hoping nobody noticed – a classic move for your favourite "news" sources.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Misguided reup

You miss 3rd party counting.
Who should a subscriber be counted for, Amazon, who offers a channel via their service, Apple, same as Amazon?
Where do you count NBC subscribers?
If you subscribe to NBC via their own app, understandable where to place them. But… Amazon has an NBC channel, Apple has an NBC channel, sling offers the full NBC offering, etc.
You may not buy them, but I don’t doubt NR’s numbers for a second given how old they are and how long they’ve been championed by every major news source as reliable.
Where the initial subscription originates and how much access a company has based on a subscription are separate factors.

Think about it:
Does an Eros customer who signed up via Amazon, like I did, count as an Eros customer or an Amazon customer, or both?
All three options may double count people.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Misguided reup

Well, I would hope that standard industry accounting would account for that to avoid falsely inflated subscription numbers, so unless there’s a source that shows this is happening I think we can safely disregard it in the context of you proving your original claim. Which means that any reader here can disregard your entire original comment, since it was based on made up statistics, thus invalidating any point you thought you had based on those statistics.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Misguided reup

“ happens through sites that don’t service anyone outside of the US.”
Google and Bing have a presence as number one or two in most countries.

Twitter and Facebook are also international. VK may be Russian but it’s available in over 50 languages and has over 600mil users!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VK_(service)

None of those companies are US only.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Misguided reup

I know that reading comprehension is hard for you, but I was clearly referring to this specific claim:

"Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo, and Vudu make up 95% of commercial video."

Vudu is US only, so it’s suspicious that you leave out so many competitors.

I was reserving judgement on the rest of your bullshit until you had proven that you weren’t pulling the above figure out of your ass, but since you’ve hilariously failed to do so, I will just assume that you’re equally full of shit with your other figures and can be safely disregarded again.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

I tried posting direct links but all it gives me is
https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/client-login/ when I copy the link.
If you know how to upload screenshots here I’ll do so.

I’m on top of this one because they just released a web sales and marketing report.

This company has over 12,800K free members who gave up privacy for full access to the site and reports, btw. Be it pinecone, eserve, opinion outpost.

Didn’t bother me since I have allow cross site tracking turned on in both browsers and in my OSs as a reminder whole.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"If you know how to upload screenshots here I’ll do so."

Just use an image host like snipboard or imgur, and link to them.

I’ll be fascinated to see if the pages support your claims, but I suspect they won’t. For example, your list of "95% of commercial video" sites for the entire internet doesn’t include any non-US site, Disney+ or Hulu? (Remember, this is the internet, so your refusal to consider anything outside your borders works even less here than it does with your news consumption). That’s highly suspicious, but I’d be interested in seeing where you got this figures, assuming is wasn’t from your rear end.

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