The Global Fiber Optic Network Explained
As we scroll through Instagram or cue up another episode on Netflix, most of us give little thought to the hidden network of fiber optic cables that instantaneously shuttle information around the globe.
This extensive network of cables – which could stretch around the Equator 30 times – is the connective tissue that binds the internet, and thanks to our insatiable appetite for video streaming, it’s growing larger with every passing year.
Today’s video, by TED-Ed, explains how fiber optic cables work and introduces the next generation of cables that could drastically increase the speed of data transmission.
A Series of Tubes
The late Senator Ted Stevens drew laughter for describing the internet as a “series of tubes” in 2006, but as it turns out, most of the information moving around the world does, in fact, travel through a series of tubes. Undersea fiber optic tubes, to be exact.
The way this system functions is deceptively simple. Light, which is beamed into a fiber optic cable at a shallow angle, ricochets its way along the tube at close to light speed until being converted back into an electrical signal at its destination – generally a data center. To increase bandwidth further, some cables are able to carry multiple wavelengths concurrently.
Impressively, this simple method of bouncing light through a tube is what moves 99% of the world’s digital information.
The Glass Superhighway
Since the first undersea fiber optic cable, TAT-8, was constructed by a consortium of companies in 1988, the number of cables snaking across the ocean floor has risen dramatically. In fact, over 100 new cables will have been laid between 2016 and 2020, with a value of nearly $14 billion.
Increasing bandwidth requirements have transformed content providers from customers to cable owners. As a result, tech giants like Google and Facebook are taking a more active role in the expansion of the global fiber optic network. Google alone has at least five cable projects set for completion in 2019.
The Last Mile
Much like Amazon struggles with the “last mile” of deliveries, the transmission of digital information is much less efficient at the data center level, where servers are connected by traditional electric cables. These short-range cables are far less efficient than their fiber optic counterparts, losing half their running power as heat.
If this inefficient use of energy isn’t solved, internet-related activity could comprise a fifth of the world’s power consumption by 2030.
Thankfully, a related technology – integrated photonics – could keep the high-definition videos of the future streaming. Although the silicon wires used in integrated photonics do not guide light as effectively as fiber optics, the ultra-thin wires are far more compact. Photonic chips paired with burgeoning terahertz (THz) wireless communications could eventually form the backbone of a 6G network. Short-range THz signals would hitch a ride on silicon wires via tiny photonic chips scattered around population centers.
Before this efficient, high-capacity future is realized, researchers must first solve the puzzle of manufacturing photonic devices at scale. Once this method of data transmission hits the mainstream market, it could drastically alter the course of both computing and global energy consumption.
Mapped: Top Countries by Tourist Spending
How much do your vacations contribute to your destination of choice? This visualization shows the countries that receive the most tourist spending.
Mapped: Top Countries by Tourist Spending
Many people spend their days looking forward to their next getaway. But do you know exactly how much these vacation plans contribute economically to your chosen destination?
Today’s visualization from HowMuch.net highlights the countries in which tourists spend the most money. Locations have been resized based on spending amounts, which come from the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Oh, The Places Tourists Will Go
Across the different regions, Europe’s combined tourist spending dominates at $570 billion. Easy access to closely-located countries, both via rail networks and a shared currency, may be a reason why almost 710 million visitors toured the region in 2018.
Asia-Pacific, which includes Australia and numerous smaller islands, saw the greatest growth in tourism expenditures. Total spending reached $435 billion in 2018—a 7% year-over-year increase, from 348 million visitors. Not surprisingly, some areas such as Macao (SAR) tend to rely heavily on tourists as a primary economic driver.
Here’s how other continental regions fared, in terms of tourist spending and visitors:
Total expenditures: $333 billion
Total visitors: 216 million
Expenses per visitor: $1,542
- Middle East
Total expenditures: $73 billion
Total visitors: 60 million
Expenses per visitor: $1,216
Total expenditures: $38 billion
Total visitors: 67 million
Expenses per visitor: $567
Of course, these numbers only paint a rudimentary picture of global tourism, as they vary greatly even within these regions. Let’s look closer at the individual country data for 2018, compared to previous years.
The Top Tourist Hotspots, By Country
It seems that many tourists are gravitating towards the same destinations, as evidenced by both the number of arrivals and overall expenditures for 2017 and 2018 alike.
|Country||2018 Spending||2018 Arrivals||Country||2017 Spending||2017 Arrivals|
|1. U.S. 🇺🇸||$214.5B||79.6M||1. U.S. 🇺🇸||$210.7B||74.8M|
|2. Spain 🇪🇸||$73.8B||82.8M||2. Spain 🇪🇸||$68B||81.8M|
|2. France 🇫🇷||$67.4B||89.4M||3. France 🇫🇷||$60.7B||86.9M|
|4. Thailand 🇹🇭||$63B||38.3M||4. Thailand 🇹🇭||$57.5B||35.4M|
|5. UK 🇬🇧||$51.9B||36.3M||5. UK 🇬🇧||51.2B||37.7M|
|6. Italy 🇮🇹||$49.3B||62.1M||6. Italy 🇮🇹||$44.2B||58.3M|
|7. Australia 🇦🇺||$45B||9.2M||7. Australia 🇦🇺||$41.7B||8.8M|
|8. Germany 🇩🇪||$43B||38.9M||8. Germany 🇩🇪||$39.8B||37.5M|
|9. Japan 🇯🇵||$41.1B||31.2M||9. Macao (SAR) 🇲🇴||$35.6B||17M|
|10. China 🇨🇳||$40.4B||62.9M||10. Japan 🇯🇵||$34.1B||28.6M|
Source: World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Note that data is for international tourism only and does not include domestic tourism.
The top contenders have remained fairly consistent, as each country brings something unique to the table—from natural wonders to historic and man-made structures.
Where Highest-Spending Tourists Come From
The nationality of tourists also seems to be a factor in these total expenditures. Chinese tourists spent $277 billion internationally in 2018, likely thanks to the increasing consumption of an emerging, affluent middle class.
Interestingly, this amount is almost twice the combined $144 billion that American tourists spent overseas in the same year.
Who Owns Your Favorite News Media Outlet?
A revealing look at consolidation and ownership of news media outlets in the United States. See who owns news media, and where ‘news deserts’ exist.
Who Owns Your Favorite News Media Outlet?
It’s no secret that news media is a tough industry.
For various reasons — from tech disruption to changing media consumption habits — the U.S. has seen a net loss of 1,800 local newspapers over the past 15 years. As regional newspapers are bundled together, and venture-backed digital media brands expand their portfolios, the end result is a trend towards increased consolidation.
Today’s graphic, created by TitleMax, is a broad look at who owns U.S. news media outlets.
Escaping the News Desert
As outlets battle the duopoly of Google and Facebook for advertising revenue, the local news game has become increasingly difficult.
As a result, news deserts have been springing up all over America:
What happens when times get tough?
One option is to simply go out of business, while another traditional solution is to combine forces through consolidation. While not ideal, the latter option at least provides a potential route to revenue and cost synergies that make it easier to compete in a challenging environment.
Nation of Consolidation
Though the numbers have decreased in recent years, regional news media still reaches millions of people each day.
Below is a look at the top 20 owners of America’s newspapers:
|Parent Companies||Total Papers||Example brands|
|New Media Investment Group||451||Patriot Ledger, The Columbus Dispatch, The Providence Journal|
|Gannett||216||USA Today, Detroit Free Press, Arizona Republic|
|Digital First Media||158||Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Denver Post|
|Adams Publishing Group||144||The Charlotte Sun, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle|
|CNHI||114||Niagara Gazette, The Huntsville Item, The Lebanon Reporter|
|Lee Enterprises||100||Arizona Daily Sun, St. Louis Post Dispatch|
|Ogden Newspapers||81||The Maui News, The Toledo Chronicle, Salem News|
|Tribune Publishing||77||Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun|
|Berkshire Hathaway Media||75||Buffalo News, Winston-Salem Journal, Omaha World-Herald|
|Shaw Media||71||Suburban Life Magazine, Putnam County Record|
|Boone Newspapers||66||The Austin Daily Herald, The Charlotte Gazette|
|Hearst Corp.||66||San Francisco Chronicle, Seattlepi.com, Houston Chronicle|
|Paxton Media Group||58||Daily Corinthian, Connersville News-Examiner|
|Landmark Media Enterprises||55||Citrus County Chronicle, The News-Enterprise|
|Community Media Group||51||Lafayette Leader, The Wellsboro Gazette|
|AIM Media||50||Odessa American, El Nuevo Heraldo|
|McClatchy||49||Idaho Statesman, Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee|
|Advance Publications||46||The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, The Oregonian, NJ.com|
|Rust Communications||44||Cherokee Chronicle Times, Southeast Missourian|
|News Media Corp.||43||Cheyenne Minuteman, Brookings Register, Newport News Times|
Turnover in this segment of the market has been brisk. In fact, more than half of existing newspapers have changed ownership in the past 15 years, some multiple times. For example, the LA Times is now in the hands of its third owner since 2000, after being purchased by billionaire biotech investor Patrick Soon-Shiong.
The industry may be facing another dramatic drop off in ownership diversity as the two largest players, New Media Investment Group and Gannett, are on the path to merging. If shareholders give the thumbs-up during the vote this November, Gannett will have amassed the largest online audience of any American news provider.
The Flying Vs: Vox and Vice
It isn’t just regional papers being swept up in the latest round of mergers and acquisitions — new media is getting into the mix as well.
Vox Media recently inked a deal to acquire New York Media, the firm behind New York Magazine, Vulture, and The Cut.
I think you’re going to see that trend [of consolidation] across the industry. I just hope it’s done for the right reasons. You see too many of these things done for financial engineering.
– Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media
Meanwhile, Vice recently acquired Refinery29 for $400 million, giving it access to a new audience skewed towards millennial women. This match-up seems awkward on the surface, but it allows advertisers to reach a broader cross-section of people within each ad ecosystem.
Both companies announced layoffs in the past year, and this restructuring may help both companies win as they consolidate resources.
The Bottom Line
While news media isn’t quite as consolidated as the broader media ecosystem, it’s certainly trending in that direction. Thousands of American communities that had local newspapers in 2004 now have no news coverage at all, while remaining papers are increasingly becoming units within an umbrella company, with no direct stake in community reporting.
That said, until the issue of monetization is definitively sorted out, consolidation may be the only way to keep the presses from stopping.
About the Graphic
This list of top 100 news sites was compiled using the following criteria:
– The top “digital-native” news outlets by monthly unique visitors (Pew Research and ComScore, excluding sports)
– The top newspapers by average Sunday circulation (Pew Research and Alliance for Audited Media)
– Alexa’s top sites under the category of news (U.S. only, excluding user-generated)
Note: The graphic has been updated to reflect changes in ownership for Refinery29, Gizmodo, and Jezebel.
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