Visualizing Internet Users

What does 0.3%1 of internet users look like?

As of this writing the global population hovers around 7.7 billion according to the World Population Clock.2

Screenshot from census.gov showing the world population clock.

The International Telecommunications Union “estimates that at the end of 2019, 53.6 per cent of the global population, or 4.1 billion people, are using the internet.”3

Screenshot from itu.int showing historical internet usage numbers as a percentage of the world population

So a 0.3% of the internet would be a roughly 12,300,000 or around 12.3 million. A nice little number.

From 50 to 100,000

It’s interesting to try and visualize this. An example of visualizing populations for small numbers can be found at Visualizing Crowd Sizes. It goes from around 50 people up to 100,000 people.

While 100,000 is interesting we need to go all the way to 12.3 million.

200,000

A particularly macabre topic these days since the United States surpassed 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 around September of 2020. ctpost ran an article online title “What does 200,000 deaths actually look like”. There are some interesting comparisons there, but none make for a good visual. It’s just an interesting number right now.

As for crowd sizes, 200,000 was the estimated number of people who attended the March for Our Lives in D.C.. There aren’t any photos capturing all attendees in one shot, but there are numerous pictures in this CBS News article to give you a good idea.

In more terrible examples, this article on dw.com suggests that the crowd size pictured is roughly around 200,000 people.

More than 200,000 conservative Muslims gathered in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta on Friday to protest against the city’s Christian governor, who is facing trial for blasphemy, police estimated.

Image from dw.com of a protest in Indonesia allegedly showing 200,000 people. Image Source

500,000

We are heading into shaky ground here. A 800*600 picture only contains 480,000 pixels. So we are now reduced to indicating population by inference. It is nolonger possible to capture 500,000 people in a webpage sized picture while showing each person individually.

This Reddit post claims that there are 500k people in the picture, but I couldn’t readily find any good references backing up that claim.

As is tradition by now, another protest that drew 500,000 people is an anti-violence rally in Barcelona as reported by NBC. While there’s video, the content doesn’t quite capture the massive number of people. Also it’s “nearly 500,000” people.

However, the closest we’ll probably get to a somewhat believable 500,000 person crowd would be the March for Science. They posted the following picture on Facebook noting that “There are 500,000 people on strike in Montreal.”

March for Science on Facebook: Picture of protest

Image source

750,000

Off to protests again. This time we are looking at Barcelona where 750,000 Catalan independence supporters are demanding the release of their leaders according to this article.

750,000 people flood Barcelona demanding release of Catalan leaders. Image source

The crowd extends past the top of the frame and there’s no chance this is the entire crowd. But you get the general idea. If you ship a bug that affects 0.01% of the internet population, then this is a conservative lower bound of what that angry mob would look like.

But wait, the Guinness World Record for teh largest charity walk/run is 283,171 people at a single venue. Have a look at that picture:

Guinness Record for the largest charity walk or run at a single venue is for 283,171 people. Image Source

It seems that picture of 750,000 people doesn’t quite capture it because clearly there are more people in the picture that’s supposed to be 283k people. Which of course goes to show how hard it is to really capture how massive a crowd 750k makes.

In an article on Wired that discusses how hard it is to estimate crowd sizes, they note4:

Every time a ton of people gather in one place, there are all sorts of pronouncements made about how many folks really showed. The figures rarely agree; Glenn Beck’s rally on the National Mall this summer attracted a million people, according to Beck cohort Rep. Michelle Bachman. CBS News pegged it at more like 87,000.

And More

I’m going to give up at this point. Pictures purportedly of around one million people are mostly parts of crowds that have been estimated to be that big. Forget about 12.3 million.


  1. Why 0.3% of the internet population? It’s a number that came up when trying to come up with a reasonable sample size for estimating the diversity of the internet population. There’s not much special about it other than that.↩︎

  2. The world population clock. This link is for the current number at whatever time you clicked on the link assuming the site is still there. As of November 20, 2021, the number was 7.7 billion. I’d link you to an archived page but that doesn’t seem to work.↩︎

  3. Statistics pages on itu.int project even higher numbers than 53.6% by the end of 2020, but it’s possible numbers won’t behave according to historical trends due to the effects of COVID.↩︎

  4. How Many People Are in Tahrir Square? Here’s How to Tell↩︎

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