Skip to Content

Visualizing the Web

WebMap lets you zoom around a topographic map of the Web to find the page you need.
April 30, 2001

The technology requires a connection to a server-side application, which categorizes documents based on the Web page’s text and metadata entered by Web developers.

On the client side, WebMap is a free browser plug-in for Microsoft Internet Explorer, which connects to the WebMap server and displays pages as icons on a map. The map is divided into oddly shaped, interconnecting regions, like territories on a chart. To look more closely at a region, you click to zoom in, which displays more sites from that region and then individual pages.

Memory Aids

“The technology allows you to take in a lot of information without reading,” and the irregular shapes help you remember, says Michael Iron, WebMap’s CEO.

The regions include Reference, Arts, Computers, Sports, News and Society. This common taxonomy is the same one used by the Open Directory Project, a Yahoo-like directory created by Web surfers.

Each region contains icons. A legend in the browsing window shows icons that represent a standard Web page, a very popular page or one of your Internet Explorer Favorites.

The icons and regions are superimposed over a Web topography. Concentric colored shapes represent traffic patterns. Higher traffic areas appear in warmer colors-yellows, oranges and reds. Lower traffic areas are displayed as greens and blues. Zooming into a region presents a more detailed view of the traffic patterns within that region.

“We use algorithms that look at each document [and establish a relationship] between two documents using keywords and metadata. The algorithm presents this information in a two-dimensional way,” Iron says. “We use a lot of things from fractal geometry, which provides a way to look at large information sets and see the patterns between many documents.”

Faster Finds

You can run a text search of the Open Directory Project or Google from within WebMap. Instead of displaying returns in a long text list, results pop onto the map as hot spots. Click one, and the page launches in a new window.

WebMap packs related pages close together, which should streamline searches. And as you use WebMap over time, links that you use more often move to the top of a region and pages you use less often sink down.

Earlier this month the company disclosed plans to roll out WebMap for internal use by companies that need to access large amounts of data, in industries including travel, finance and pharmaceuticals. Iron says WebMap’s selling point is the ability to organize data visually both on the Web and, using XML, in corporate databases. A wireless client also is in the works.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other
conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other

Forget dating apps: Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love

Fed up with apps, people looking for romance are finding inspiration on Twitter, TikTok—and even email newsletters.

computation concept
computation concept

How AI is reinventing what computers are

Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

We reviewed three at-home covid tests. The results were mixed.

Over-the-counter coronavirus tests are finally available in the US. Some are more accurate and easier to use than others.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.