Into Thin Air: The Internet responds to Malaysia Air flight 370

If you're anything like the folks here at Beutler Ink (news-addicted and mystery-loving), you've probably been anxiously following the disappearance of Malaysia Air flight 370, now missing for more than two weeks. Although aircraft do go missing from time to time, it remains an uncommon occurrence. A plane that drops off radar for a prolonged period is assumed to have dropped to the ground (or water, as the case may be). And yet the whereabouts of MH370 remain unknown, even as resources off the coast of Australia scour the waves for mysterious debris. The twists and turns of MH370's disappearance are the stuff of paperback fiction—disabled transponders, fake passports, low altitude radar avoidance maneuvers. Call it "The Plane That Wasn't There."

With seemingly all of the facts about the vanishing plane up in the air, we decided to take a look at how people on the Internet have responded to the disjointed and constantly evolving narrative of the missing aircraft, from first mentions on Twitter to the creation and development of the Wikipedia article. And the results are pretty interesting.

Twitter section
Twitter section

Twitter interest in the missing plane peaked relatively early, with news of the missing plane on March 8th showing the most social engagement.

Wikipedia section
Wikipedia section

The situation on Wikipedia is a bit different. Although an article about the plane's disappearance was created on March 8th, it was less than 100 words. As additional news about the plane became available, though, the article grew over the course of the first week before stabilizing around 4,000 words.

The Tomnod website has also served as a popular destination for those interested in helping piece together what happened to MH370. By viewing satellite images and marking objects of interest, people from around the world are helping to locate possible pieces of wreckage and oil slicks.

All of this crowdsourced hunting through photos and developing theories is in addition to the largest geographical search in history. And although theories, leads, and days come and go, MH370's location—and the sequence of events that took it there—remain a mystery.

(Click below to view full graphic)

Beutler Labs MH370
Beutler Labs MH370