What does the Internet look like? There's an app for that

March 6, 2013: 5:10 AM ET
peer1 map internet app
The map of the Internet, as represented by Peer 1 Hosting's mobile app.

You go online every day, but have you ever wondered what the Internet actually looks like?

Now, thanks to Peer 1 Hosting, there's an app for that. The Internet hosting company's new app for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices displays an interactive 3-D map, showing links between all the interconnected networks that make up the Internet.

The Internet can be a difficult concept to understand or explain (alas, it's not a series of tubes, as the late Senator Ted Stevens famously stated). That's why the fascinating app, called Map of the Internet, represents the Internet in three unique ways -- each helping to highlight its different aspects.

A global view shows where all 22,000 nodes -- communication hubs that make up the Internet -- are physically located on the planet. App users can spin the globe around or zoom in to find the geographic location of various networks.

The network view shows a very different makeup of the Internet. It places the most central, interconnected nodes at the top and the nodes with the fewest connections at the bottom. Within those divisions, the app then places individual nodes near other nodes they're closely connected with.

What results is a jellyfish-like structure. Content delivery networks like Level 3 (LVLT), which serve up most of the Internet's content, are represented by giant dots at the top. Big networks like Google (GOOG) are slightly smaller but more closely connected with other networks, and, websites like CNN.com are even smaller and a bit farther from the center.

Users can click on individual nodes to find out more information about them, including their names and what they're connected to. The app also lets users search for particular networks, such as Google and Facebook (FB), to get a sense of where they sit in the Internet.

The app's third view shows the Internet's makeup over time. A scrollable timeline at the bottom of the screen takes users from 1994 to the present -- and even predicts what the Internet will look like in 2020. The timeline highlights major events, including the launches of the Apple (AAPL) iTunes store, Google, and Facebook, among other notable moments in the history of the Internet.

Users can also perform "traceroutes" from their locations to any node on the Internet. Ever wonder how traffic goes from your iPhone to Yahoo and back? The Map of the Internet app shows you where all those bits and bytes travel.

Peer 1 Hosting says it's not trying to make any money from the app. The free software is "simply our contribution to this space," said Rajan Sodhi, head of marketing for Peer 1.

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