02 July 2009

The West Wide Web

2127.I am now using Firefox 3.5, and I'm well pleased. This is a good update. And, judging by the popularity, me and over eight millions worldwide rather agree.

Firefox never debuts without a little flash and style, and they've provided one in the form of the live download monitor at the location http://downloadstats.mozilla.com. The thing, which is really quite nifty, provides a graphical view (via a world map) and tabular view (below the map) which you can reconfigure on the fly as you like.

Two days ago, with I originally downloaded FF, I checked in on that. At the height of the download frenzy, here's three screenshots of that map. See if you can discern the story it seems to be telling:

That was the graphical state of the Firefox download world at approximately 1357 PDT on 30 June 2009. What is more remarkable than where Firefox is getting downloaded is where it isn't. I watched the little candles flicker in and own for several minutes, and I expected a big demand from the USA and Western Europe, but Asia (except for the occiasional flicker in Japan and the Phillippines), Oceania (save for the occaisional pip on the lower right margin of Australia) and Africa? Hardly anything. The European interest dropped off like a wall when the eye crossed the boundary into the heart of the old Warsaw Pact, it seems.

The most active continent behind NorthAm and Europe was South America, but it seemed, visually to be a rather feeble third-place. I just checked back on it at the time of this writing, and it looks much the same (though the rates have slowed down somewhat), and the countries at the top of the list have remained the USA, Germany, France, and Japan (the USA has the most FF downloads by far, with over 2 Millions).

Country-by-country downloads of FF as of 1305 PDT 2 July 2009.
The five top countries: USA, Germany, Japan, France, the UK.
Download frequency seems to drop precpitiously as you move down this list.
Screencaptured from http://downloadstats.mozilla.com.

I will say right up front here, as I do a little drilling-down, that I don't know if this says anything particular. Actually it probably says many cogent things, for instance, it seems to suggest that the world economy (if you take a preponderance of personal computers and users with time to download internet porn Firefox as congruent to wealth and prosperity, which doesn't seem an unreasonable thing to do) is still largely based in and driven by what we used to call the "First World"; you could see here the digital divide writ large amongst the nations of the world, you could see this as a diagram of what has and what doesn't have (and, certainly, great swaths of territory are empty because they are inclement to human life; still, there are areas that are comparativiely thick with humanity (central Africa, the eastern margin of South America, and notable, China and India) that one would think would be ablaze. But they aren't). I'm also not trying to ring anyone up for being unfair. We all not only generate but are subject to stresses that we sometimes don't understand. We are what we are and the world is what it is.

The point that I've kind of wound my way to is this: Even in this world where we can grab a webcam and virtually travel anywhere, we still live in a limited world, and the lens with which we view it seems to be skewed toward the developed West. This can be a good thing (if we understand that our view is, despite being what it is, is limited, and we work to keep this in mind) or a bad thing (if we use our view of the world being what we see over the WWW to be a confirmation of our bias that our Western society is necessarily (I cannot note strongly enough that operative term) is the acme of civilized development on this planet

Though the WWW and increasingly less expensive technology (software as well as hardware) we have a great lens that lets us see the world as our forebears not only couldn't, but couldn't imagine. But, paradoxically, it seems to hide at the same time it seems to reveal. What do you really know about the center of Asia, or the center of Africa, or southeast Asia? What you read on the Web, of course, which is largely found in the industrialized West.

It's a beautiful lens onto the world, the WWW is. I don't know how I got alon with out it. But, just like any advanced instrument, it must be used with care. We must be smart enough to know what it tells us, as well as what it doesnt.

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