Skip to content

Country codes of the world

This is oddly compelling:


The color scheme is boring–it just replicates geographic information that is already clear from the picture. I’d prefer a more informative color scheme, perhaps based on per-capita GDP, but that’s a minor quibble. (With the new color scheme, it might help to outline the continents in gray to make it easier to locate everything.)

Also, of course the dots are not necessary, but maybe they give the map some of its charm. Lower-case letters are certainly much easier to distinguish than upper-case letters.

One other point that otherwise might be missed: What really makes this map work is that it does not display the borders between the countries. Border displays draw attention to the countries’ shapes, which is not usually what we care about. That’s one reason why I’m not a fan of those distort-a-maps that stretch out states or countries in proportion to their population.


  1. EmilyKennedy says:

    I like the dots because it's a visual analog to the internet country code.

  2. This is a nice graphic! BTW, the term for those kinds of maps is cartogram. :)

  3. Radford Neal says:

    But what data is being plotted? I find it hard to believe that this is a plot of the number of IP packets with source and/or destination IP for a particular country code, or number of domain names registered with particular country codes, or anything else related to the internet. It looks very much like the size of the country code is just proportional to the country's population. If so, it's somewhere between silly and dishonest.

  4. S says:

    its just the size of the countries, give or take.


    "Each two-digit code is sized relative to the population of the country or territory, with the exception of China and India, which were restrained by 30% to fit the layout. At the other end of the spectrum, the smallest type size used reflects those countries with fewer than 10 million residents."

  5. Scott says:

    If this is just showing population size, it's both misleading and pointless.

    I was expecting it to reflect the number of registered domains with the associated top level domain. That would also be a bit misleading however, since I think USA use of ".com" might be higher than most other countries.


  6. Andrew Gelman says:

    Radford, Scott:

    I disagree. I realized that the numbers represented population size (and I'm disappointed that China and India were reduced in size). I just thought the map was pretty. If you remove the dots (so that Brazil, for example, is "br" rather than ".br") and scaled China and India back up, I think it would be perfect. To me, the picture is an elegant way of showing where the people in the world live. If you want to show IP addresses or whatever, that's fine, but that's another story entirely. I don't think there's anything silly or dishonest about a map showing population.

  7. Kaiser says:

    I also welcome any improvement to cartograms, and am appalled that they decided to make China and India smaller. More generally, I think maps are over-used, especially maps of the U.S. where much of the interior is scarcely populated. You then have the illusion (e.g. in many red/blue/purple maps) of the middle being magnified compared to the coasts.

  8. JohnnyZoom says:

    The China/India censoring (what should this be called, if not right censoring? outward censoring?) is too bad. But a significant issue with this graphic is the linear vs area bugaboo when representing quantities in a two-dimensional way. Is the linear magnitude (eg., font size) proportional to population, or is it area which is? While the accompanying annotations can make this clear in principle, subconsciously we perceive magnitude proportional to somewhere in between.

    That is one advantage cartograms have over this format. The arbitrary shapes remove any visual framing to interpret the magnitude in anything other than area related.

    Nonetheless, an interesting try. But drop the dots…that would actually allow more room and more faithful representation of China and India.

  9. Garrett says:

    Andrew, I think the misleading part is that the map uses the internet designation for each country as symbols, which gives the impression that this map has something to do with the internet. I assumed this was an indication of the number of internet users in each country until I read this comment thread.

Where can you find the best CBD products? CBD gummies made with vegan ingredients and CBD oils that are lab tested and 100% organic? Click here.