If you mapped every server on the Internet, what would it look like?
John Heidemann and Uri Pryadkin from the University of Southern California know. In fact, they've posted pictures here.
The two just spent an exciting 62 days pinging each of the 2.8 billion unique IP addresses on the Internet. Not surprisingly, about 61 percent of the pings didn't receive a response and a good number on top of that had the mechanical equivalent of "no comment," according to this article about the effort.
My favorite factoid from the article: This is the first census since 1982, when the Internet had a whopping 315 addresses.
OK -- so why bother?
The most obvious reason is simple curiosity about what the Internet "looks" like. They mapped IP addresses that start with the same number in the same square, placing the squares in numerical number in a looping fractal pattern -- a.k.a., a Hilbert Curve -- to keep adjacent addresses physically near each other, according to the article. Full disclosure: I've read that in several articles, but I have to quote it verbatim because I have no idea what it means. But I did find this nice tutorial explaining the Hilbert Curve, complete with pretty pictures.
Curiosity -- that's one reason. What else?
As it turns out, another goal is to show in a very graphic way why people need to start adopting the IPv6 protocol before we run out of traditional IP addresses, which is expected to happen in early 2010 -- that's just two short years and a few months, people. Time to get busy!
The third and final reason, reported via the Technology News Daily, is to improve Internet security. Heidemann said the Department of Homeland Security supported their work, in hopes it would improve network security by helping security researchers track virus outbreaks.
So, take your time looking at that map, because it's literally your tax dollars at work.