The ’six degrees of separation’ notion states that every person on the planet is only six contacts away from every other person on Earth.
A new study from Microsoft’s Research Redmond Lab studied the six degrees of separation using instant messaging information gathered from Microsoft Messenger users.
The information gathered from people who use Microsoft Messenger included 4.5 terabytes of compressed information from 1 billion conversations per day over a month period of time.
The data was collected in June 2006 and contains information on 30 billion conversations between 240 million people.
The researchers were surprised to learn that the average number of contacts to get from one random person to another was only 6.6.
This number is very close to the ’six degrees of separation’ idea.
The Microsoft study was led by Eric Horvitz and Jure Leskovec. Horvitz stated that he was surprised that their results so closely matched the 1967 study.
He wondered whether the number six is a basic constant for human social interactions: ‘Do we have a natural harmonic for social communication?’ he asks. ‘This is my conjecture — more work needs to be done on that.’”