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A Journey to the Center of the Internet


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Your Internet cable plugs into your wall. Then where does it go?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Andrew Blum adopts a strong, authoritative voice in this broad and complex exploration of the physical makeup of the Internet. Readers who prefer visual representations may find themselves impatient with Blum’s exploratory approach, though his prose is lovely and leavened with dry humor. But others will find the book lively, strange and fascinating. getAbstract recommends Blum’s insights to scholars of cyberculture and modern society, historians of technology, innovators, and the intellectually curious in every field.


Mapping the Physical World of the Internet

The Internet is the largest thing humans have ever built. It circles the globe, contains many miles of cables and consumes considerable energy. Though people seldom consider the Internet’s tangible structure, it has a physical presence, a physical reality and a physical structure. Having insight about the mechanical complexity of the web helps you make better decisions about it.

The Internet exists simultaneously in three different “overlapping realms”: the “logical realm” of electronic signals, the “geographic realm” where the signals reach, and the “physical realm” of computers and cables through which the signals travel.

Start expanding your vision of the Internet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the printing company Kubin-Nicholson, which prints huge maps of the physical pathways of the Internet, including the web’s city-to-city links and traffic levels. Its $250 maps show the actual cables carrying all that information. Much of the data for these maps comes from an annual report titled Global Internet Geography (GIG). The market research firm TeleGeography, which publishes the GIG and sells...

About the Author

Andrew Blum, a contributing editor for Metropolis, writes about technology and architecture for publications including Wired, The New Yorker and Popular Science.

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