To make the map, Matherly sent out Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) Echo requests to some four billion devices connected to the internet, Matherly tells Inverse. Devices that are online responded, pinging back the signal and allowing Matherly to stick them on the map. It’s similar to the pings that are used for internet speed tests, and can operate essentially as a “can you hear me now” function for the connected devices.
Matherly is the founder of a company called Shodan, which is a search engine that finds anything and everything accessing the internet. Matherly calls himself an “internet cartographer,” which, as his most recent map shows, is pretty accurate.
In other words, Matherly’s maps aren’t just of the millions of people around the world watching cat videos on their computers. The maps show the research centers, unprotected security cameras, and notoriously unsecured Internet of Things devices.
The map is a heat map, so it doesn’t show each individual device — you can’t use Matherly’s map to find your own devices. Instead, red areas on the map represent more connected devices, and blue represents fewer.
“If you live in a western country,” Matherly tells Inverse, “hopefully it will make you a bit more aware of how disconnected large parts of the world are.”
This is the second worldwide connectivity map that Matherly has made. He made his first map of the internet in 2014. At the time, he told Gizmodo that making the map took 17 hours — five hours to gather the data, 12 hours to plot the points on a map with matplotlib, a data plotting library that uses Python coding language to generate charts and infographics with lines of code.
It started out as a weekend project for fun, but after Matherly posted the first map online, he found that companies enjoyed the visualization of data. It was a way for companies to understand how connected certain countries are.
This year the it took around 2 hours to gather the data, and 12 hours to plot the points. Matherly collects the data daily for Shodan, but this is only the second time he’s plotted the data points.
Here’s what the internet looked like in 2014.
“I didn’t expect to see as big a difference so fast,” Matherly says.
The Western world remained relatively the same, but certain islands and developing countries grew exponentially in the two short years. Much of the growth is from people who never had access to the internet, while in the West, the internet of things is growing the number of connected devices — although it’s still more of a luxury good and won’t change the map in the short term too much.
“The internet of things is a very connected worldview,” Matherly says, “but many countries don’t have that.”
A few important things to note:
- India has become even more of an internet hotbed.
- The number of devices in South America has intensified.
- Islands are becoming more connected, sprinkling the world’s oceans with data points.
- Madagascar isn’t just for drunk lemurs anymore.
- Greenland’s lonely connected location in the center of the country has been joined by a spattering of locations along the coast.
- There is still an internet desert in northern Nevada and southeastern Oregon.
As more and more devices connect to the internet of things and Zuckerberg spreads the internet to places it’s never been before, you can expect the red zones of heavy internet connections to quickly keep spreading across the globe. Perhaps by the time Matherly makes his map next year, Kazakhstan and northern Nevada will be filled in.