From TIME Magazine Online:
Paul Butler, a Facebook engineering intern, transformed social data into a stunningly beautiful visual that outlines the geographical borders of Facebook friendships.
It worked like this--by using a random sample of ten million pairs of Facebook friends, Butler plotted both their locations and their connection to one another on a graph. By repeating that step with each member of his sample, Butler found that the resulting image formed the outline of a world map, with the most marked areas forming where major cities are located.
The result is this stunning map, which displays exactly what Butler had intended it to. "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," he wrote on Facebook's engineering blog. (Which is also worth checking out for a more detailed explanation of his process plotting the map).
True, it's not exactly shocking that a visualization of Facebook friendship data shows that most connections are within short distances of one another and that major cities have more connections than remote regions. But so what? This map is so neat that it's worth the time this experiment likely took. (via All Facebook)