Facebook planet: How does Facebook see the world?

Facebook intern Paul Butler has envisioned the world through the lens of the most-popular social network on the planet.

Facebook intern Paul Butler has created a map showing the world as envisioned by Facebook.

A Facebook intern named Paul Butler has created a map of the world as defined not by borders or continents but by Facebook friends. And guess what? It's pretty cool looking. Over at the official Facebook blog, Butler says that he built the map, which appears above, by taking a massive amount of sample material from Facebook's data warehouse.

"I combined that data with each user's current city and summed the number of friends between each pair of cities," Butler wrote. "Then I merged the data with the longitude and latitude of each city." Finally, he did a lot of mathematical-sounding things that we don't entirely understand – including defining "weights for each pair of cities as a function of the Euclidean distance between them and the number of friends between them."

And then, voilà! He had a map of the world, Facebook-style.

"What really struck me," Butler wrote, "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.... It's not just a pretty picture, it's a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders," he added.

In July, Facebook announced that it had signed up its 500 millionth member – meaning that Facebook had grown 25 percent since February of 2010, when it hit the 400 million mark. The site shows no sign of slowing down. Most recently, Facebook unveiled a redesign of its profile pages – one that shrinks down biographical information and favors photographs and multimedia over text – and pledged to continue improving the site for all its members, worldwide.

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