6 Degrees of Separation? New Study Says 6.6

Microsoft researcher seems to confirm that the world is a pretty small place
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2008 12:39 PM CDT
Actor Kevin Bacon.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A huge Microsoft study of its Messenger records bolsters the oft-quoted, but never proven, theory of “six degrees of separation"—almost. The study puts the figure at 6.6, but that's still a pretty small world. A Microsoft researcher analyzed 30 billion messages sent among 180 million users worldwide and found that most people could be linked by a string of fewer than 7 acquaintances, the Washington Post reports.

"To me, it was pretty shocking," said one of the researchers. "What we're seeing suggests there may be a social connectivity constant for humanity," a sentiment that makes playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon almost scholarly. The study, which included all of Microsoft Messenger’s traffic from June 2006—half of the world’s at the time—is by far the largest investigation into the details of personal interconnectivity.