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A few months ago I wrote about Internet as a high-stakes game played by millions of people.
The Internet, you see, is an enormous, three-dimensional gaming surface. This gameboard consists of billions of nodes (web pages) joined by trillions of connectors (hyperlinks), fluctuating and evolving in real-time. It helps if you visualize it as a physical thing, and to do that, we’ll need to put on our magic decoder glasses.
In the comments to that post, I said I was working on an Internet visualization tool or agent. Today I’d like to introduce that tool, code-named Inviz, short for “Internet Visualizer”. It’s the piece of software responsible for the images you’re about to see. They were generated entirely inside this tool, in a matter of a few minutes.
Get those magic decoder glasses ready. Our first Internet snapshot is in black and white:
That’s a living, breathing picture of a small galaxy of web sites as they exist in the real world. Each block in the above diagram is a single web page. Each line is a single hyperlink (or other association between two pages). Everything you see can be manipulated, dragged and dropped, resized, queried for its properties and content. If you double click a node, the tool traces the nodes hyperlinks and opens up another galaxy of nodes, and so forth. As you can see, after just a few minutes of working with the tool, the relationships can get complex.
Because the Internet itself is complex, and all Invis really does is take a (somewhat) intelligent picture of that complexity.
Let’s zoom out for the bird’s-eye view, and tell Inviz to color-code sites according to the domain they belong to:
It’s a battleground, our Internet. Can you guess which galaxies belong to Digg.com? Microsoft? Coding the Wheel? Or Jeff Atwood over at Coding Horror?
Let’s zoom in (Inviz supports zooming by any arbitrary scale factor) and take a look. Here’s the diagram at 500%.
So, at least in this particular view, Inviz has chosen a red-white gradient fade for Digg.com.
The galaxy of red blips you saw in the 2nd picture? The Digg.com home page, and (some of) the pages it links to. Light blue nodes? Various Microsoft sub-domains. Dark blue nodes? Good old Jeff Atwood over at CH. Black nodes? Sites we don’t care about.
Of course, colors, shapes, and connectors can all be customized by the user. In fact, we can do away with the graphical view entirely, and boil the entire web down to a simple tree control.
This link hierarchy is the well-known factor behind Google’s PageRank. And although not shown here, Inviz has an option allowing you to tweak the size, shape, color, or other aspects of a given element based on its incoming links, resulting in a sort of visual PageRank. Now if I could only get access to the Google master index…
Anyway, this diversion has been brought to you by…
Inviz was implemented using C# and .NET 2.0+ exclusively. It is a work in progress. Inviz is not currently available for download or purchase. That may change if there’s any interest. If you’d like to see a picture of your own website as seen through Inviz’s eyes, leave a comment. It’s capable of some very strange visualizations, and even has some useful HTTP functionality under the hood.
Until next time.