For those of us young enough to have grown up in a world in which the internet has always been a thing, these maps of the web from 10-15 years ago are practically relics from an ancient time.
What you're looking at above is a splattering of the various connections between ISPs from the year 2004. Here's how the map got described by Flickr user Steven Jurvetson, who first posted the image on that site 10 years and five days ago:
"Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. BBN is the random scatter of green in the middle (early ARPANET). Sprint is the organized star topology in purple near the top. AOL is a gray disconnected island in the lower center. There is little correlation between this network connectivity graph and physical geography, except for a clustering of Pac Rim connectivity.
...In a nutshell, they use a modified hacker trick of sending a storm of IP packets out randomly across the network. Each packet is programmed to self-destruct after a delay, and when this happens, the packet failure notice reports back the path the packet took before it died. To visualize this sea of data, Ches applied place & route software from the semiconductor CAD industry to untangle the hairball of data and spread it out in a 2D map that humans can easily absorb. In these maps, one can see security gaps and unknown network connections. (disclosure: we invested them when they spun out of Bell Labs)"
Here's a similar map to the one above, labeled to show the connections between ISPs from 1999. Some of those names are major blasts from the past.
And just in case you've forgotten what the internet looked like in 1999, we always have The Wayback Machine.
Archived website images via The Wayback Machine
Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr / Creative Commons