We all know Facebook is changing the world’s social behavior, but what would Kevin Bacon think of this? From the New York Times:
The world is even smaller than you thought.
Adding a new chapter to the research that cemented the phrase “six degrees of separation” into the language, scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan reported on Monday that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world was not six but 4.74.
The original “six degrees” finding, published in 1967 by the psychologist Stanley Milgram, was drawn from 296 volunteers who were asked to send a message by postcard, through friends and then friends of friends, to a specific person in a Boston suburb.
The new research used a slightly bigger cohort: 721 million Facebook users, more than one-tenth of the world’s population. The findings were posted on Facebook’s site Monday night.
The experiment took one month. The researchers used a set of algorithms developed at the University of Milan to calculate the average distance between any two people by computing a vast number of sample paths among Facebook users. They found that the average number of links from one arbitrarily selected person to another was 4.74. In the United States, where more than half of people over 13 are on Facebook, it was just 4.37.
“When considering even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra or the Peruvian rain forest,” the company wrote on its blog, “a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend.” The caveat there is “Facebook user” — like the Milgram study, the cohort was a self-selected group, in this case people with online access who use a particular Web site…
[continues in the New York Times]