In 2007, the webcomic xkcd created a fantasy map of online communities. The size of each area corresponded to the estimated membership of that community. At the time, Myspace was the biggest nation in the online world. Facebook was modestly sized, Twitter was not big enough to be included (although it had been founded the previous year), and YouTube is merely a Gulf rather than a nation. Older communities such as Yahoo and AOL have been banished to the Icy North. Meanwhile, the string of islands to the West in the Sea of Subculture includes a tiny section of an island named Reddit, which would go on to become a much more influential force in promoting memes and viral content in the years to come.
Map of Online Communities, Spring 2007 (via xkcd.com)
In 2010, xkcd created another Map of Online Communities. In those three short years, a lot changed. MySpace quickly lost its userbase to Facebook, which soon became the biggest social network juggernaut of the internet. Meanwhile, Twitter and YouTube took off as well, and each was given its own island nation to rule in the updated map. Skype dominates the island of instant messaging, although I wonder why it was absent from the 2007 map, as I’m pretty sure it was around then too. The islands of the Sea of Subculture have relocated to the Sea of Memes in a more central location, perhaps indicating their increase in viral influence. Now Reddit is the largest island among them, and would likely be bigger today.
This map has a bigger variety of social networks, which I think is not so much due to the fact that more communities sprang up over the course of 3 years, but that the map creators sought to broaden their scope. For example, Okcupid had been joined by eHarmony, Match.com, and Plenty of Fish, but every one of them was around in 2007 as well.
Map of Online Communities, 2010 (via xkcd.com)
I haven’t seen a Map of Online Communities for 2013 yet, but I really hope they do one. It would be interesting to see how online communities have grown or shrunk in the three years since 2010, especially since so much change happened from 2007 to 2010. I’m confident that Facebook is still number 1, but I’d guess that Twitter and YouTube have also grown, and Myspace has probably shrunk further. I wonder where Google+ would fit in on the map. Farmville would be much smaller… perhaps replaced by Candy Crush Saga, the latest “it” game. And don’t forget Pinterest and Instagram, which could fit in somewhere near Tumblr and the photo blogs.
Good luck to all my fellow travelers out there on the stormy seas of the Internet!