Think of a cellular network, and I’ll bet you picture cellphone towers dotting the country, beaming signals into space. Think of a computer network, and maybe you imagine that little blue cord running from your computer, connected to bigger and bigger cables, until they meet a big ugly building filled with servers. But after that? You probably draw a blank.
Truth be told, the Internet is a physical thing, and our global commerce and telecommunications now depend on a series of cables–tubes, if you will–that run all across the floors of the world’s oceans, connecting far-flung countries together in a patchwork quilt of networks. All of that is amply and exhaustively illustrated over at Greg’s Cable Map (thanks Greg!).
What makes Greg’s Map cool is that you can zoom around the map, and clicking on any one tube brings up a link on the right side, showing the Wikipedia entry for that tube; all of the places that the tube connects; and at the bottom, how much data that tube can carry.
You might be surprised at how few of them there are–just a few dozen, rather than the hundreds you might guess. Nonetheless, Greg’s chart isn’t exactly a terrorist road map: The network is supposedly robust enough that fiber optic cables get torn all the time without affecting the world’s telecom traffic, as there’s enough capacity to route signals through other paths.
For more about the tubes (and pictures of the actual tubes!), check out this story from last year in Pop Sci.