Michael Weiss-Malik was showing off an internal visualization of search traffic currently shown in one of the lobbies at Google's Mountain View, CA offices. This short video shows some footage of the visualization and ends with an interesting use of Google Street View.
Michael: This is called the GeoWall. This is an engineer's 20% project. Engineers at Google Earth are encouraged to spend 1/5th of their time on a project of their choosing. This actually pre-dates Google Earth. What we're looking at is traffic on the Internet. Every spot on the map, is a place where we've located its traffic that's coming to google.com for search. And every dot that's flying off the map represents a unit of traffic. So lots of dots, more traffic.
Lastly, the colors are the language. This gives a very dynamic display of who is searching Google and where they're located. You can actually see if you watch this long enough the day/night terminator from the sun and how that affects traffic; and basically visualize the population centers of the world -- the on line ones by Internet traffic.
Initially, places like Africa are interesting. They show very dark, very light. But that also means there is a huge potential there because there are a lot of people living there. They haven't quite gotten on line yet.
Tim: So, this is running in the lobby?
Michael: Yes, this runs in one of our lobbies; its sort of a demo for visitors and googlers.
Tim: So, if you look closely, you can see the traffic coming from Moscow. Most of Russia seems dark.
Michael: I gather that means we don't have a lot of traffic from Russia. I'm not sure of the connectivity in Russia. You can see the east/west coast. It looks a lot like, I don't know if you've seen nighttime maps of the earth where you can see which areas of the earth are lit up by humans. You can see all the cities are really bright. This map, to me, looks a lot like this, the population center are the bright little spots. There is a lot of dark in between.
Tim: Is this something you made public or internal?
Michael: Its only seen internally at Google Earth. It was cycling earlier. There are a couple of different modes it tosses into.
Tim: So what else do you do for Google?
Michael: I'm a software engineer and KML Product Manager. KML is the language for Google Earth. If you want to put data on a map and style it, draw a blue line here, a little icon here for your favorite restaurant where a bubble pops off of it, KML is the language to do it with. It's kind of like the HTML of mapping.
Tim: Thank you very much.