The worst part of the whole debacle was that Facebook's robots.txt file explicitly allowed the crawling of this data.
Well the reality is: Looking at the network of US cities, it's been remarkable to see how groups of them form clusters, with strong connections locally but few contacts outside the cluster.
vs this PR peice that says:
It's not just a pretty picture, it's a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.
PS: Visualizing data is like photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle. aka, To make something with the right look takes not just data but the correct manipulations of that data.
To quote StudiVZ CEO Riedl: “There is now no more direct battle against the global player Facebook.” 
It’s interesting to see that the Facebook clone worked in Russia but didn’t in other places.
 StudiVZ: http://www.studivz.net/
 StudiVZ was founded in November 2005 (a whole year earlier than Vkontakte), Facebook was localized in early 2008
 A week ago, in an interview (German): http://www.handelsblatt.com/unternehmen/it-medien/studivz-ch...
1. vk ports features from fb 3 to 6 months after they appear (share-widget, like-widget, connect-widget, possible friends)
2. vk's got a comprehensive search engine with lots of filters by age, city, gender, current status (married, single, in active search etc.). Lots of people I know use vk for dating. I might be missing something, but I didn't find such a thing for facebook.
3. vk's got native music and video upload. By native I mean that you don't use any third party application/service to do this. Everything's hosted on vk's servers. That's the reason copyright owners sued vk several times (RIAA even blacklisted the guys). However, they [copyright holders] lost in all the court cases.
4. VK offers cheap contextual ads. While not exactly a killer feature, it is very nifty for business, -- they only charge per-click and if you get the targeting and ad text right, you'll get more visitors than you need.
5. Another random guess is that it's easier for a German than for a Russian to migrate to English service.
So if you have all your friend on VK AND you have all the entertainment stuff there - why switch?
Unless Facebook comes with some interesting strategies to pull the users, the status quo will remain as is. And from what I hear and see, FB is putting a significant effort into this. It'll be interesting to watch in the nearest 1-2 years.
In principle, Facebook is localised. I could imagine that few apps are translated to German though, and even fewer to Russian, except those built by native developers; (I don't use any apps, so I don't know) that native developer pool ought to be the same as the one building VK (or VZ) apps. Assuming Facebook does a decent job of filtering localised apps, I can't imagine this to be a massive issue for users.
I can only assume the media upload is what keeps people coming back.
All of the other reasons you mention seem to be reasons why businesses would prefer VK over Facebook, but surely it's the users that are the key?
People keep coming back because that's where their friends are.
This tells me that even if a social network seems to have a particular market cornered, a competitor still has a chance. (Which, I think, is quite nice to know.) Network effects are obviously important and have to be considered by anyone who wants to build a social network but I think there are certain properties of social networks that dampen network effects: Signing up is easy and free, for one, and rebuilding the social graph, while some work, is far from tedious. You only have to add some friends and recommendations get you the rest of the way.
I guess that this is not the case with vk.com and they may as well survive.
The other great thing is the lack of censorship. Vkontakte doesn't censor posts and doesn't have Facebook's policy of selectively banning links to outside websites.
You can't post a picture of a titty on your FB wall without the Facebook Nazis coming down with threats on you. Vkontakte doesn't ban adult content or adult-related groups.
The two things they do actively fight against are spammers and pedophiles.
About respecting copyright law, Facebook does nothing about people posting stolen photographs. It's just more socially acceptable to pirate those.
The other thing about Vkontakte is it's very popular with CIS diaspora and exchange student communities abroad. Lots of people keep accounts in both Facebook and Vkontakte, but the latter gets used more for things like organizing social outings and events.
Except that it's an incomplete relatively ugly clone of Facebook, which is why quite a few people are jumping ship to Facebook. It does have its niceties in the form of music uploads, but that's more of a quirk of the general state of regard for copyright laws in the country.
Give it another year or two.
The US / Canadian border in the West is interesting. It seems between west of the great lakes and east of Seattle there isn't much connection across the border.
Alberta bumps up to ~3.7 million, and the connections start to increase.
I really wanted to look at the map in the context of where actual countries were so I threw together a Google Maps overlay. I couldn't believe how accurately the connections followed country lines, it was amazing!
It is a lot easier to move around and work on one side of the border or the other, which leads to people naturally not meeting people on the other side.
In the east there are so many more people and there is so much cross border traffic due to trade (particularly from the auto industry) that a lot more cross border connections exist.
Check out the library:
As for the west coast, let's not forget about the geographical anomaly known as "Point Roberts":
I also wonder who those users in North Korea are.
That might also be an artefact of young people leaving East Germany for West Germany and Berlin. The facebook population density in East Germany seems to be quite low by that picture.
I think very carefully before I reveal any information publicly about my users. Sometimes seemingly aggregate information isn't.
Notice the conspicuous absence of China, Russia and Brazil.
> As a sanity check, I plotted points at some of the latitude and longitude coordinates. To my relief, what I saw was roughly an outline of the world.
His plot doesn't "know" about the world - he is just drawing curves between points in a plane (lat. and long.). I haven't used R, but I am sure that would be possible.
But yes, it's probably possible to draw an uglier version of the visualization. (I know you can draw the individual points on the plane, so drawing lines between points is probably available as well, though I'm not so sure about the great circles part.)
EDIT: To explain and not be snarky, QQ is an IM/portal/social network/web mail/social game platform that is actually larger than Facebook. (Over 600 million active last I checked.) They completely dominate every aspect of Chinese web software.
IMO many of these sites are blocked in China so Chinese companies can dominate the domestic market rather than for political reasons.
Facebook would be on this list if it weren't blocked in China:
Filtered or not, US web companies don't tend to do well in China. Amazon and eBay aren't filtered, for example, but they both completely flopped here. A lot of it has to do with US tech companies not understanding how (or being unwilling) to do business like Chinese.
Google was the one that really invested in China and though not in the same league as Baidu yet, it was definitely moving up in market share until the government turned hostile on them. They definitely "understood" how to do business in China: they had a big Chinese staff, they even had a music search like Baidu which surprised me because it seems like something RIAA would go nuts at, and they made their own very good pinyin input system.
I'm guessing if Amazon or ebay got successful and competitive with their players, China would suddenly notice some pro-Tibet book on there and use it as an excuse to give them the boot.
eBay are famous down here in New Zealand (at least with those that care) for believing that serving a dial-up market with heavy picture laden HTML from 200-300ms away and no local presence was going to work. A local start-up (Trade Me) destroyed eBay pretty quickly and has gone on to post better per person numbers than (I believe) any eBay affiliate.
Same story in China. I say there are/were too many MBAs in eBay and not enough (especially local) tech-heads.
Meanwhile Skype is doing great things post eBay ownership.
an ex Trade Me MBA. The only one at the time, and part time at that.
I wonder if Chinese Internet users for some reason think they'd be caught evading the filter if they put their actual city in their profile?
Or maybe his sampling method was just abysmal? ;)
This looks pretty, but it'd be more interesting to me if I could explore it some.
The border region between the Canadian prairie provinces and the American plains may be because the cities aren't smack against the border as in BC/WASH. or Ontario/NY etc.
The few dots in NK could be those few expats or SK/foreign tourists, or NK operatives logging in. NK does have a twitter account.
Anyway, the map is stunning and i think its a great visual of the inequalities, especially between Africa and the global North. It might also highlight the irrelevance of fb in regions where community (not the same as digitized "communication") is more necessary, strong and relevant to the life and survival mechanisms therein than costly technologies elsewhere.
It's not based on IP, but based on self-stated resident city.
Anyway, I'm not a fan of facebook, google and the like, as it's not obvious that the consumer pays the big bill in the end. People think of great, free services but all the billions those company make come secretly from our pockets. (Via created consumer trends, higher prices that other companies can take due to the consumer information they buy from facebook)
Weirder: Portugal (11M people, 114 hab. per km2) is much brighter than Spain (44M people, 93 hab. per km2): the difference in density does not seem to explain the difference on the map. Are Spaniards less social than the Portuguese?
The map is quite predictable to some extent too. Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata are clearly visible, and I think I see Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai as well, albeit as less brighter dots. Bangalore not being a bright dot is curious in itself - is it that people here are more networked with other cities and countries rather than within the city?
>Also India and countries in Western Asia seem more connected than India and US (which is what I was expecting assuming the FB population in India)
How do you see something like that? I found it pretty difficult to keep track of the lines.
If that were true, it would be pretty interesting indeed.
btw, i wonder who you are....as you are also a Sundar
Jokes aside, this is an amazing marketing/hiring tool for Facebook. I hope they print this on billboards.
edit. I love this map. China and Russia are black holes.