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Instead of the Iron Curtain, the Facebook Curtain

This map shows the pattern of Facebook friendship links across places around the world, with lots of white where there are very dense links across nearby places. The map was created by a Facebook intern, and I learned about it (where else?) on Facebook (HT Mari Kuraishi).

Click for high-res version

One interesting pattern is a kind of Facebook Curtain somewhat related to the old Iron Curtain. The whole area including the former Soviet Union and China, along with other adjacent autocracies like Burma and North Korea, is pretty much a Facebook void (see zoomed map below). This reflects some combination of language barriers, preference for other social networks in Russia and China, and some (rather unclear) role for Internet censorship by the authorities, which either prevents or lowers the payoff to participating in Facebook.

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19 Comments

  1. John Carter wrote:

    I find this map absolutely fascinating! As well as Russia, South America seems to have a “void” as well.

    Posted December 15, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  2. Matt G wrote:

    Orkut is a very popular social networking site in Brazil, which may help to explain the small number of facebook users in South America.

    Posted December 15, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink
  3. R wrote:

    The west can’t get enough of themselves..who cares what each other had for tea. The Soviets place much more emphasis on the soul…the self. Not on what Dave from Barnet was eating whilst watching x-factor. Post Modernism sucks

    Posted December 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  4. Patricia wrote:

    That, plus the lack of population in the interior of Brazil — Amazon, jungle, the like.

    Posted December 15, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink
  5. Jacob Clere wrote:

    Fascinating! The African Facebook spots seem to very closely reflect relative affluence – Johanessburg, Lagos, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Mauritius, and a couple other places. But in South America, why is Paraguay lit up like a Christmas tree?

    Posted December 15, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  6. IdealistNYC wrote:

    @John Carter – I think the South American “void” you’re referring to is called the Amazon.

    Posted December 15, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  7. William Easterly wrote:

    @R: do we still call them “Soviets” while praising their souls?

    Posted December 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  8. Ryan Mitchell wrote:

    The role for internet censorship by authorities is definitely not unclear in some cases: Facebook is totally blocked in China unless you find a way around the Firewall. Not too difficult, but it’s enough of a hassle to stop the site from becoming popular. That and getting investigated or “visited” if you or a friend posts something about, say, Liu Xiaobo or Falun Gong.

    Posted December 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  9. ewaffle wrote:

    The PRC has three Facebook style social networking sites. The largest is Renren (Everybody) which looks like it was cloned from Facebook. Its parent company has an IPO planned in 2011.

    There are also a couple of Twitter style sites.

    Microblogs are a big deal there as well.

    Posted December 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  10. Humanitarian wrote:

    Or could it be, that Russia and China and Mongolia and…include vast areas of tundra/taiga/desert…etc. and this could be (at least to some extent) the reason why facebook has not invaded these countries so far? look at canada, quite as dark as russia/china and one can “see” the border to the US. is canada an autocratic country? it wasn’t in 1996 when i was there for the last time.

    Maybe we should all run a regression analysis now to check for p and t statistics, so we REALLY know what’s going on.

    Posted December 16, 2010 at 3:08 am | Permalink
  11. Le Dude wrote:

    Interestingly, this site http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/06/16/the-effervesence-of-industrialization/ , displaying earth by night and population, which aren’t 100% correlated, shows that facebook is more related to industrialization than to mere population. If we take the small leap that GDP is related to industrialization (at least more than to, say, happiness :-) , then this again proves the GDP point.

    Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:00 am | Permalink
  12. Le Dude wrote:

    Oops, previous post didn’t come through; here it is:

    Ok, lets regress this on sight, by using two factors, displayed in these maps:
    world population density: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/World_population_density_1994.png

    (see next post)

    Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:03 am | Permalink
  13. Daryl wrote:

    @Matt G, Good point about Orkut in Brazil. I would guess that Orkut has high penetration in Brazil relative to Facebook for different reasons than, say, Vkontakte does in Russia.

    It seems Southern Brazil, Uruguay and Buenos Aires (the Rio de la Plata region) are well connected, but the region also has a high concentration of foreigners. I wonder how much of this tracks use by locals and how much tracks expats like me (US American in São Paulo).

    Posted December 16, 2010 at 6:49 am | Permalink
  14. Jackson wrote:

    @ Humanitarian

    No, it’s definitely because China is an authoritarian country that blocks Facebook.

    If you look, you’ll notice that every city in Canada is lit up as brightly as any other inhabited area of the US/EU, while the dark areas correspond to uninhabited territory.

    In China, a population about 30 times higher than the entirety of Canada lives in the eastern half of the country, which excludes huge low-population areas like Tibet and Xinjiang. Among those ~1 billion people is an internet population about equal to or greater than the internet-using population of the United States. And yet, it’s entirely dark to Facebook. Partly that’s preference for local networks – but then, it’s easy to prefer local networks when the one used by the rest of the world is actively blocked by the government.

    I don’t know much about Russia’s internet situation, so I’ll leave that for others.

    Posted December 16, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink
  15. Akhila wrote:

    This is amazing! It seems to have to do more with industrialization and population– for instance, although Orkut is preferred in India, India still remains quite lit up – and this is likely because of the huge population. Of course, China’s censorship has blocked Facebook, which also has an impact.

    Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  16. ragingbonesaw wrote:

    Now where’s the high-res version?

    Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  17. Eric Johnson wrote:

    I live in China and can easily confirm Facebook’s entirely blocked, here; but like many others, I use Facebook … my point being that if the map is based on geolocating the source of connections to Facebook, it would fail to correctly attribute Chinese users to China (because we’re all using proxies–millions and millions of daily connections).

    Posted December 16, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink
  18. asdf wrote:

    haha look at australia^^

    Posted December 17, 2010 at 6:05 am | Permalink
  19. Shauky wrote:

    I think @Humanitarian is right,

    ” Or could it be, that Russia and China and Mongolia and…include vast areas of tundra/taiga/desert…etc”

    Look at this map pointing out light-sources from densely populated areas. They are very similar
    http://www.asnsw.com/articles/lightpollution.asp

    Posted December 18, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink

2 Trackbacks

  1. By RadarLake » Where are your friends? on December 15, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    [...] map created by a Facebook intern showing links between Facebook friends in different placex (via: Aid Watch). I don’t find the map particularly compelling mainly because it’s hard to tell where [...]

  2. [...] here to see the original: Instead of the Iron Curtain, the Facebook Curtain AKPC_IDS += "7521,";Popularity: 50% [...]