History of the world in 100 seconds, according to Wikipedia

As you know, the world wasn’t always how you know it today. Land was discovered, people migrated, and significant events in history played out to shape what society is like now. For a glimpse in this sort of evolution of the world, Gareth Lloyd scraped all geotagged Wikipedia articles with time attached to them, providing a total of 14,238 events. Then he mapped them over time.

Your history lesson begins in 499 BC, when most of the documented events appear in Europe. Around the middle mark, you see some activity in Asia. Finally, around 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, got lost, and thought he was in India, there’s a burst of activity worldwide. Fast forward to present day, and you’ve got an image that resembles a modern map.

Can you do something more with the data? Lloyd put all geotagged Wikipedia articles in a Google Fusion Table as well as the subset that has time attached.

[Ragtag via @aaronkoblin]


  • interesting to see how he makes points persist over time in order to show anything coherent at any one time. also presumably, much like images that are geotagged, some are just tagged ‘China’ with a big dot in the middle of it, whereas others are accurate to a few metres!

  • Karl Craig March 21, 2011 at 3:43 am

    It seems very biased towards the northern hemisphere.
    Did only 50 things happened in the southern hemisphere? Really?
    Great graphics though. I like that the points keep there faded to give the regions their shape.

    • @Karl, this shows, as mentioned in the Comments, “documented” events. So in this manner, it’s a fair portrayal and explains all the Eurocentric focus.

    • That was also my response. It’s worth noting that he’s only using geotagged articles from the ENGLISH Wikipedia. I have a hunch that it would look different if all of the Wikipedias were parsed.

  • Thanks for extending the title with “according to wikipedia”. I think it is important to state the source and meaning of your data as bluntly as possible. “Historical events with well structured data about time and place in wikipedia” might be even more precise :-)

  • It still is scary to see the USA North and South border appear so clearly.

    • I’m not sure “scary” is the right word for that… “interesting” maybe, or “poignant” or “profound”, but definitely not “scary”

  • It’s a very good example to demonstrate what “a frog sitting in the bottom of a well” means.

    • Kindly explain “a frog sitting in the bottom of a well”, thanks.

      • 5.antiago May 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm

        It’s an ancient Chinese proverb, the story being that there’s a frog living at the bottom of a well who thinks his world is marvellous, but of course his view of the world is defined by the narrow confines of his well. A turtle comes along and tells him about the sea.

        I guess you get to choose whether this visualisation is narrow-minded or not.

        I personally think not. They’ve explained their method, highlighted the bias and the limitations, and made available the data for everyone else to have a go. That’s not “narrow-minded” in the same way as we mean it when we accuse some person of being narrow-minded.

  • You’ve just witnessed a representation of the viral spread of totalitarian agriculture.

  • putting it on a world map would make clearer sense, iam bad at visualising the places

  • We should do a history of Earth in 100s… 99s of nothing and then BAM! Life ^_^

  • Byron Hathaway March 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    The same “time-lapse” movements occur in Petrie dishes when viruses or bacteria are introduced and begin consuming all the sources of energy within the dish. This is especially true of cancer.

  • Perhaps you could put music with this like that 70’s hit, “The Popcorn Song” by Hot Butter.

  • I like the idea, but too bad the data source leads to a biased visualization. It suggests that the history of the world happened primarily in Europe and the United States. A seriously flawed assumption.

  • 5.antiago May 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Has anyone followed the link to the original post by the authors themselves? The first comment is simply: “This is shit”.

    That made me laugh. There are large and obvious limitations in the visualisation of course, as noted in the comments here (and crucially, by the author as well), but I gather it was more a fun exercise and not designed to accurately communicate how the history of the world actually unfolded

    I suppose the detractors are waiting for the version where the birth of each individual human since the dawn of time is mapped out dynamically. Some people are never happy

    Anyway, I like it. It’s a creative idea, and a technically excellent project.