Scientists draw up world atlas of the internet

Hyperbolic geometry to save the world from internet darkness

Stewart Mitchell
10 Sep 2010

A transatlatic group of scientists have created the first geometric map of the internet in a bid to prepare for the mother of all online traffic jams.

The team - from universities in California, Barcelona and Cyprus - says its geometric “road atlas” of the internet could help improve web routing.

“We compare routing in the internet today to using a hypothetical road atlas, which is really just a long encoded list of road intersections and connections that would require drivers to pore through each line to plot a course to their destination without using any geographical, or geometrical, information which helps us navigate through the space in real life,” said Dmitri Krioukov, principal investigator of the project.

Krioukov is concerned that existing internet routing, which relies on only this topological information, is unsustainable.

In their paper, Sustaining the Internet with Hyperbolic Mapping, the researchers described how they discovered a theoretical three dimensional network lying beneath the internet's surface topology, leading them to create a network map more like a globe than a flat map.


They say that such a map would make it simpler to build a more robust routing architecture for the internet and redirect traffic in an emergency.

“It is very complicated, inefficient, and difficult to scale to the rapidly growing size of the internet,” he said. “In fact, we are already seeing parts of the internet become intermittently unreachable, sinking into so-called black holes, which is a clear sign of instability.”

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