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I came across this rather beautiful info-graphic recently and thought I’d share it with anybody who hasn’t seen it yet. The work of Facebook intern Paul Butler – this map visualises the connections between Facebook friends across the world. Here’s what Paul had to say on his masterpiece:

“I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.”

 

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I thought I’d take a look at it and see what information I could glean as an International SEO and Social professional.

As you can see, the brightest areas are those which are global hubs of commerce: Central and Southern Europe and the East coast of the USA. However, there are a couple of areas which you might not expect to see shining beacon-like out of the map, for example Indonesia. What you might not realise is that Indonesia has the world’s second largest population of Facebook users – out of 45 million (estimated) Internet users 40 million of these have a Facebook profile, that’s a 90% penetration rate!

Then there are large areas which are virtual wastelands, most notably China and Russia, where there are strict limitations on popular western social media. Facebook was banned in mainland China in the summer of 2009 after incidents and rioting in the North Western province and in Russia the network hasn’t yet captured the imagination of the Russian public.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that China and Russia haven’t cottoned on the ‘social revolution’ – oh no…

Chinese social networks Qzone, RenRen and Pengyou have a combined 370 million users and Russian’s preferred networks Vkontakte, Ondoklassniki and My.Mail have over 150 million users combined.

However, never one to let sleeping dogs lie, Facebook recently struck a deal with a major Chinese search engine Baidu to create a joint social networking website aimed at the Chinese Internet audience. In Russia the site officially launched in April 2010 and only ranks #5 out of Russian social networks, according to Internet tracker comScore, but its growth has been impressive. However, from January until August 2010, its Russian operation has racked up a 376 percent increase in users, to 4.5 million.

Things are constantly shifting in the online landscape, which begs the question: if Paul Butler were to re-create his visualisation five years from now how would it look?

Dan Bloomfield is a Search Account Manager at Oban.