Facebook, Google, and—a newspaper?

Two researchers, Mark Graham and Stefano De Stabbata, at the Oxford Internet Institute have depicted the world’s “Internet empires” in a map, below. The map shows each nation’s most popular website, with the size of nations altered to reflect the number of Internet users there.

The map makes for a brief, informative look at how geographic—and universal—certain web tastes and habits are.


Mark Graham and Stefano De Stabbata

Facebook, the world’s most popular site, is most popular in North Africa, parts of the Middle East, and the Pacific coast of South America. But elsewhere, Google looms. It’s the most popular website in North America, Europe, and parts of south Asia.

And even where it isn’t the most popular site, Google is still powerful. “The power of Google on the Internet becomes starkly evident if we also look at the second most visited website in every country,” Graham and De Stabbata write:

Among the 50 countries that have Facebook listed as the most visited visited website, 36 of them have Google as the second most visited, and the remaining 14 countries list YouTube (currently owned by Google).

What of the rest of the world? Baidu dominates China, though its spill-over popularity into neighboring countries makes the researchers doubt whether data from those countries is accurate. Yahoo! succeeds in Japan and Taiwan through its nearly two-decade-old partnership with Japanese SoftBank and its 2007 purchase of Wretch, a Taiwanese social networking site.

Elsewhere: Yandex, a search engine, is Russia’s most popular site; an email client is most popular in Kazakhstan. Data from central African nations appear unavailable, which makes me wonder if the starting data included mobile web. (If so, Facebook might be doing well there, too.)

Perhaps most interesting  to me are the Palestinian Territories, where a newspaper (a newspaper!), The Al-Watan Voice, is most popular.

Graham and De Stabbata also styled their map Age of Exploration-style, visible at the very top of this post. They seem most interested in, and concerned by, the power inherent in these homogeneous data empires. “We are likely still in the very beginning of the Age of Internet Empires,” they write:

But, it may well be that the territories carved out now will have important implications for which companies end up controlling how we communicate and access information for many years to come.

Top image: The world’s most popular websites, old timey map-style (Graham and De Stabbata)

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Robinson Meyer
Robinson Meyer

Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

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