Home Connecting the Dots: Palantir Visualizes Facebook Activity

Connecting the Dots: Palantir Visualizes Facebook Activity

Part of the appeal of Facebook to the media, no doubt, comes from the fact that much of its use remains shrouded in secrets. It is difficult to get a good grasp on what’s really happening within the walls of the popular social network. There are data points on its current valuation, the number of applications on the platform, and the number of users. But there’s rarely a clear indication of what’s happening at the user level – beyond the now platitudinous “throwing sheep” assessment.

That’s what makes something like Project Palantir so interesting. Because we get a brief glimpse into how Facebook is really being used.

Project Palantir is a continuation of a Facebook Hackathon project designed to “visualize all the data that Facebook gets.” The name is likely a reference to the palantir of Orthanc from the Lord of the Rings. (Or for the slightly less Tolkien-adept, “that big eyeball thing that sat on top of the tower.”)

Suffice it to say, Palantir is designed to provide near-omniscient sight into Facebook activity around the world. Using a globe as the canvas for the visualizations, the Palantir developers have managed to plot a subset of the massive number of Facebook activities taking place on earth at any given moment, in real-time. Different flavors of visualizations allow views of specific activities like friend requests and profile views, including the amount of data being produced and direction in which data flies this way and that.

This glimpse into the inner workings of Facebook is mesmerizing – and informative. Even with a brief look at Project Palantir in action, the data-philes are likely salivating. Unfortunately, there’s no word on when – if ever – the project will be publicly available. For now, we’ll just have to be satisfied with deconstructing the brief demo of Project Palantir in action.

For more discussion, see coverage at TechCrunch, where the video was first reported.

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