A geometric "atlas" of the internet has been created in an effort to preserve it in the coming decades.

U.S., Spanish and Cypriot researchers say they have discovered what they call a negatively curved space hidden beneath the surface of the internet known as a "latent, hyperbolic" geometry.

This discovery has enabled them to create a new way of mapping the internet, a process they believe will help it to operate in the future.

"We compare routing in the internet today to using a hypothetical road atlas, which is really just a long encoded list of road intersections and connections that would require drivers to pore through each line to plot a course to their destination …," Dmitri Krioukov, principal investigator of the project, said in a release.

The problem with that is that, like a roadmap, it lacks any of the real information that typically helps people navigate through space in real life.

Krioukov says current internet routing is not sustainable. "We are already seeing parts of the internet become intermittently unreachable, sinking into so-called black holes, which is a clear sign of instability."

The authors believe the newly discovered internet space could be navigated more precisely by routers sure of network paths and their hyberbolic co-ordinates, improving the internet's efficiency.

The study is published in this week's issue of Nature Communications.