Facebook takes credit for shrinking degrees of separation between people around the world

Studies with University of Milan show 6 degrees of separation now down to 4.74

Citing what it calls the largest social networking studies ever, Facebook says the common notion of six degrees of separation between people knowing other people has become outdated.

Facebook's data team writes in a blog post that the degrees of separation between any two people in the world has been seriously shrinking over the past 3 years as Facebook membership has boomed to 721 million active users (with an average of 190 friends), accounting for 10%-plus of the world's population. The number of hops between any two Facebook users, based on an algorithm developed at the University of Milan, was 5.28 in 2008 and now is down to 4.74, according to Facebook. Within the United States, most people are separated by 3 degrees (or 4 hops), and according to Facebook, some 84% of connections are between people in the same country.

(Microsoft researchers a few years before social networking exploded, found that 6 degrees of separation was about right and a Stanford Scientist won a Microsoft fellowship recently for his research into predicting your next Facebook friends.)

Facebook and the University of Milan, which together studied both how many friends people have and how many degrees of separation there are between people in the world, concluded: "In these two works, we show how the Facebook social network is at once both global and local. It connects people who are far apart, but also has the dense local structure we see in small communities."

Facebook study

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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