Visualizing the Web with Google

The TouchGraph GoogleBrowser shows you what the web "looks like" to the search engine, visually displaying the linkages between your favorite web sites.

Computer scientists describe the web as a scale-free network that can be drawn as a graph, with pages represented as nodes (dots), and the links between them represented as edges (lines).

Google takes advantage of the web's graph-like structure to help it calculate search results, partly based on the number and importance of links pointing to a particular page. The graph structure can also reveal other interesting relationships -- for example, sites that are related to one another.

The TouchGraph GoogleBrowser uses Google's database to determine and display the linkages between a URL that you enter and other pages on the web. Results are displayed as a graph, showing both inbound and outbound relationships between URLs.

Each "node" is labeled, and if you mouse over the node a small "info" box appears -- clicking on this opens up a pop-up window with information about the page. Double clicking on the node sends a request to Google to return ten more URLs that have strong linkages to that particular node.

It's a fascinating way to see not only who links to whom, but also to uncover "hidden" linkages between sites that on the surface appear to have no connection. It's sort of like playing "six degrees of separation" with a search engine.

To do this, enter a starting URL, then enter an additional URL to uncover other web pages that contain links to the first set of related URLs. Continue doing this and you'll often be quite surprised to see how closely connected many pages on the web can be.

The GoogleBrowser offers several sophisticated controls for refining your views. Unless you're fairly strongly grounded in graph theory, it's best to simply play with the defaults. Full instructions for understanding the graph and using the advanced browsing capabilities are available via the link below.

Several other sites use the TouchGraph technology for different types of information. The Amazon Browser is particularly interesting, visualizing the "also-bought" relationships of Amazon shoppers. The PubMed Browser gives you visual relationships for medical literature in the Medline database. And the Google Set Vista is really cool, showing relationships between terms that Google uses to create conceptually related "sets" of words.

TouchGraph GoogleBrowser
A tool for visually browsing the Google database, by exploring links between related sites.

TouchGraph GoogleBrowser: Full Instructions
Full instructions for understanding the TouchGraph GoogleBrowser and its advanced browsing capabilities.

Amazon Browser
A tool for browsing the mass of literature, music and film contained in the Amazon database, by exploring links between related items.

PubMed Browser
A tool for browsing 40 years of medical literature contained in the Medline database, by exploring links between related articles.

Google Set Vista
See visual relationships created by the experimental Google Sets feature (use the blue form next to the word "Term:" about midway down the left side of the page). The site recommends trying it with people, such as Isaac Newton, Francis Ford Coppola, Frank Sinatra, Pablo Picasso, or "ism's" such as socialism.

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.