online communities map xkcd
Artist Randall Munroe of the webcomic xkcd has updated his famous Online Communities map, which he created back in 2007. He compiled information from the spring and summer of 2010, culling data from search engines, Alexa (a site traffic monitor), press releases and statistics sites, even consulting employees of individual websites.

This year he's basing his findings on vaguely defined units of site activity rather than members. That makes sense, because membership numbers don't always convey an accurate picture of a site's health and influence, but it does mean some of these comparisons might not be totally clear.

Look at this before-and-after of the new and old Online Communities maps, which I have conveniently color-coded so you can see which site-nations grew and shrank the most.
Online Communities, 2007
online communities 2007
Online Communities, 2010
online communities 2010
Biggest Losers
  • MySpace
  • Friendster
  • Yahoo
  • Windows Live
  • LiveJournal
  • Orkut
  • Xanga
  • Broadcaster
  • Piczo
Biggest Winners
  • Facebook (including Farmville and the Chinese version, Happy Farm)
  • Twitter
  • Massively Multiplayer Online Games
  • QQ (Chinese IM program)
  • Skype
  • YouTube
It's interesting that so much of this map is still dominated by Western, especially US websites, though China's QQ and Happy Farm take up a sizable chunk of the map. I predict that 2013's map will likely feature loads more international communities, as the Third World's internet access expands and governments recognize the need for an open internet.

It's also notable that Facebook has grown so much over the last two years. Of course, this is probably due to expanding membership, but it's also a testament to the site's ability to keep its users engaged. Since the new map's countries are sized according to site activity, it's clearly conveyed how places like Facebook and Twitter and Farmville offer users an unending stream of things to do. Not so with the flailing Friendster, for instance.

For $15 plus shipping you can buy a 32" x 37" poster of the map, or bundle it with the 2007 map for $20.

One thing we can't help but wonder. Is 4chan intentionally shaped like a wiener?