A new way to visualize Internet usage

We usually get information about Internet popularity in bits and pieces, through services such as Alexa or announcements about  usage volume, such as Twitter recently exceeding 50 million tweets per day.

The BBC offers another, more useful approach through its Visualizing the Internet graphic, which does two important things.  The first is that it shows the relative popularity of different categories of sites, and the second is that it uses monthly unique visitors as the key unit of measurement (versus the number of people who have registered for a site, but don’t use it regularly).

BBC Internet traffic visualization

By mousing over any square, you can get the specific number of unique users of each site within a category.  The larger the square, the more people visited that site.  Some metrics that jumped out at me:

  • ESPN has more users (26.6 million) than the New York Times (23 million) or Fox News (18 million), but Disney Interactive beats them all with 31.3 million.  (I question the categorization of Fox Interactive Media as the top traffic-getter in media/news — I suspect that includes traffic to MySpace, which is not listed separately in the social network category.)
  • In gaming, the social game site Zynga leads the category with 25 million monthly users.
  • Walmart and craigslist have the same number of monthly users: 35 million
  • eBay is still a powerhouse with 121 million monthly users.
  • Facebook’s monthly usage of 218 million is substantially lower than its claim of 400 million active users although in fairness the Nielsen data used reflect usage only in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, US and Australia.

For the geeks out there, the maps were generated using the Flare toolkit developed by the UC Berkeley Visualization Lab.   This map is part of the BBC’s excellent Superpower series about the Internet.

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