Visualizing Friendship on Facebook - Connecting People even across Oceans and Borders

facebook friendship visualization world map
Yesterday it was Twitter, today Facebook.  We got to know of this really cool picture done by Paul Butler who is an intern on Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team.  Paul decided to visualize the social graph of 500 million people and see the locality of friendship.  How does geography and political borders affect where people lived relative to their friends?  And which cities have a lot of friendship between them?

Paul started by taking a sample of about 10 million pairs of friends, and took each user’s current city and started checking out the friends between each pair of cities.  For each city he took the longitude and latitude values.  To keep it simple, making use of a statistical software, Paul started plotting these longitude and latitude values.  He then drew lines between each of these dots, using a colour ramp from black to blue to white, depending on the amount of friendship between the cities.  To make the image clearer, the dots were then removed, and only these lines were kept.

Now keep in mind that Paul started on a new canvas.  He never used an already generated world map.  But what resulted is amazing... a detailed map of the world.  The outline of continents is clearly visible.  And not only this... but even, certain international borders are apparent as well.  Just to sum it up, Paul states:

What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn't represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.

When I shared the image with others within Facebook, it resonated with many people. It's not just a pretty picture, it's a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.”

Check out the Facebook page of Visualizing Friendship here

Check out the high resolution image here