Facebook and Yahoo test the six degrees of separation theory

Aug 18, 2011

I bet you have all heard of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. This is the old we are all connected to Mr. Footloose by no more than six friends. The larger theory is that all of us are connected by no more than six people to any other person. Yahoo and Facebook are teaming up to test this theory out using the world's largest social network - Facebook.

The experiment has been dubbed the Small World Experiment and the goal is to find the social path between two strangers using Facebook. Anyone that has a Facebook account can participate in the experiment and figure out if they are really only six people away from some other random stranger on earth. This sounds like a really cool project to me.

The participant will be asked to select one friend that they think is most likely to know whoever their target person is. That friend can then select one of their pals they think may know the target person and so on until the target person is found or not found as the case may be. I'm not clear on how the target person is chosen. I am thinking the target person is assigned in the experiment. The official experiment description is below.

The Small World Experiment is designed to test the hypothesis that anyone in the world can get a message to anyone else in just “six degrees of separation” by passing it from friend to friend. Sociologists have tried to prove (or disprove) this claim for decades, but it is still unresolved.

Now, using Facebook we finally have the technology to put the hypothesis to a proper scientific test. By participating in this experiment, you’ll not only get to see how you’re connected to people you might never otherwise encounter; you will also be helping to advance the science of social networks.

[via ZDNet]

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