Icons of the Web
December 18, 2013: The Nmap Project is pleased to release our new and improved Icons of the Web project! Since our free and open source Nmap Security Scanner software is all about exploring networks at massive scale, we started by scanning the top million web sites for 2013 (as ranked by the analytics company Alexa). We then downloaded each site's favicon—the small icon displayed next to a site title in browser bookmarks and tabs.
We scaled the icons in proportion to each site's monthly reach (popularity) and placed them in a giant collage. The smallest icons—for sites visited by only 0.00004% of the Internet population each month—are 256 pixels square (16x16). The largest icon (Google) is 394 million pixels. The whole collage is 5 gigapixels.
This is an update to a similar project we performed in 2010. That edition proved very popular. It was written up in the New York Times and other sites, exhibited at the Newseum in Washington D.C., and even found its way into the Guinness Book of World Records (see the press section for more). It is interesting to compare the new data with the old to see how the Internet has evolved in recent years.
Since your web browser would likely choke on a 5 gigapixel image, we've created the interactive viewer below. It's divided into 813,200 small files which are only loaded as needed based on your location and zoom level. Click and drag to pan and use the mouse wheel (or toolbar) to zoom. For mouse wheel zoom, you may need to interact with the viewer first (e.g. drag something). A new feature this year allows you to hover your mouse over an icon to see the site name. You can also click on icons to visit the actual sites, but be careful with that! Even sites with cute icons (like the cartoon Hamster) can be pornographic or worse. We have also added a fullscreen viewing option.
To find your favorite site (or your own site), type in the domain name (example: reddit.com) and hit search.
Comparison to Favicon 2010
Our 2010 Favicon Project was a huge success and that data is still fully browseable here. The Internet's competitive ecosystem is always evolving, and these three years saw dramatic changes. In the social networking and blogging worlds, Myspace, Orkut, and Hi5 collapsed to nearly nothing, while Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter gained ground. Pinterest, Tumblr, Sina Weibo, and Instagram quickly rose from nothing into dominant forces. In search, Google, and Ask improved while Yahoo suffered. Chinese search engine Baidu/Hao123 grew significantly after Google shut down its Chinese service. In media, Youtube gained ground while the pirate sites Megaupload, MegaVideo and Rapidshare jumped the plank. Finally, in e-commerce, Amazon, eBay, and China's Tmall/TaoBao gained ground. Almost all the top gainers were American or Chinese companies. The following tables display the biggest winners and losers. A change entry such as “6.9 to 20.6%” means the site (Yahoo) dropped 6.9 percentage points from 27.5% to 20.6% reach.
|Top Percentage Point Gainers Since 2010
|14.8 to 43.8%
|9.4 to 32.8%
|4.3 to 12.6%
|Chinese search engine
|3.9 to 7.4%
|Google Hong Kong
|3.8 to 3.9%
|Due to redirection after Google China shutdown
|3.8 to 45.8%
|2.9 to 8.4%
|Chinese chat/blogging/social service
|2.9 to 4.9%
|2.7 to 3.2%
|Chinese web directory
|2.7 to 7.4%
|2.5 to 2.5%
|2.3 to 2.3%
|2.2 to 2.6%
|1.9 to 2.1%
|1.7 to 2.3%
|1.5 to 5.0%
|Top Percentage Point Losers Since 2010
|7.9 to 4.9%
|Most services moved to other MS domains
|7.9 to 9.3%
|Closed in April 2013
|6.9 to 20.6%
|3.7 to 0.3%
|Dead social network
|3.1 to 0.9%
|Shut down to fight censorship
|3.0 to 0.2%
|1.5 to 3.5%
|1.4 to 0.0%
|Raided and shut down by police
|1.3 to 0.2%
|Integrated into Google
|1.3 to 0.1%
|Dead social network
|1.2 to 3.4%
|1.2 to 0.1%
|Dead social network
|1.2 to 2.0%
|1.2 to 1.2%
|1.1 to 0.4%
|1.1 to 0.0%
|Raided and shut down by police
Perhaps this visual comparison is the best way to demonstrate the changes:
Many people asked for a printed poster so we created one through Kickstarter. They have all sold out, but we might do a new poster (with new data) in a future year. You may leave your here to be notified first if we do a new poster:
If nothing else, this poster is a great lesson in humility. My sites may seem big and important to me, but when placed in perspective of the whole Internet, I need a magnifying glass to show people Nmap.org on the poster.
Press and Popular Culture Appearances
The 2010 and 2013 editions of Icons of the Web have been very well received in the press and popular culture (museums, books, etc.):
- The project was the introductory exhibit for the digital news section at the Newseum (museum of news) in Washington D.C.:
- The Guinness World Records Book 2012 leads its Internet section with Icons of the Web (page 170):
- New York Times: Bits Pics: Visualizing the Web’s Icons
- Slashdot: Nmap Developers Release a Picture of the Web
- Gizmodo: The 300,000 Biggest Websites, Visualized With Their Icons,
- Engadget: Visualized: world's most trafficked websites and their favicons, and
- The Telegraph: The world's top 300,000 websites visualised by favicon.
If you have any questions, feel free to mail Fyodor. I'll add the common ones to this section.
- Why are some sites not found?
- There are a few possible causes. First, the site may not have been among the top million at the time the survey was done. Check the data file (7zip-compressed) to see if it was present. Second, the site may have changed its icon since the survey was done. This page downloads the current icon of the site you type in, and looks up its hash in a database. Failing that, it will look up the site name in the database, but that only works if you use the exact same name we did when doing the survey. Third, it's possible that the site timed out or didn't have an icon at the time of the survey. Fourth, this page limits the size of the icons it will download. If an icon file is too big, it won't be found.
- I've got a creative idea for creating a derivative work! How do I request permission and obtain high resolution files?
- Please mail Fyodor. We granted permission for people to use the 2010 edition in numerous ways, including exhibiting at The Newseum and printing a wall-sized version for a corporate boardroom.
- Didn't you already do this a few years ago? What's the big deal about this update?
- Besides rescanning the Internet for the newest data, we updated our interactive viewer to actually identify icons as you hover your mouse over them. You can also click to visit the site. And we're excited about the new printed poster option. The full-screen viewer is new, and scrolling performance is much improved. We have also grown the collage from 1.4 gigapixels to 5 gigapixels. For comparison, just take a look at the old version.
- Why doesn't it identify the very small icons when I hover my mouse over them?
- For performance reasons, we don't load all of that information at once. Zoom in further and you can identify even the smallest of icons by hovering.
- Why are some of the large icons so pixelated while others are so smooth?
- Favicon files use the Windows ICO format which allows an icon to be specified in multiple sizes. Almost every site includes a 16x16 icon since that's what browsers typically use in the URL and tab bars. Some sites include higher resolution icons as well, and we use the largest one in the file. 16x16 icons look very pixelated when zoomed. Of course we could find higher resolution icons for the likes of Facebook and Google, but we choose to show the actual favicons, pixelation and all. For comparison, the Facebook favicon is 16x16 while the Reddit icon looks smoother because they use 256x256.
- Who is the unsung hero behind all of this?
- Even though many of the pictures on this page are of me (Fyodor), David Fifield initially came up with the idea and did more of the hard coding work. This project would never have happened without his tremendous help!