Microsoft studies 30bn instant messages and "proves" six degrees of separation theory

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instant_messaging_six_degrees.gifThe theory that every human being is separated from anyone else by a maximum of six steps may have gained some ground thanks to a study of some thirty billion instant messages by Microsoft’s researchers.

Studying the addresses of messages sent during June 2006 (yes, two years ago — what, were they reading them as well?) the researchers found that any two people were linked by seven or fewer acquaintances — 6.6 steps to be precise, with over three-quarters of the pairs linkable in seven or fewer steps.

“People have had this suspicion that we are really close. But we are showing on a very large scale that this idea goes beyond folklore,” said Eric Horvitz of the Microsoft Messenger project.

Two people were marked as acquaintances if they had ever sent a message to each other.

Of course, the study is only based on people that use Microsoft’s instant messaging client, which is unlikely to be an accurate representation of the global population as a whole. It’s an interesting experiment, though.

(Via BBC News)

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Andy Merrett

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