Software // Social
News
8/4/2008
02:21 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

Everyone Really Is Just Six Degrees From Kevin Bacon, Microsoft Says

A study of Microsoft's instant messaging network supports the popular idea that everyone on the planet can be connected through fewer than seven links in a chain of contacts.

Providing vindication for a popular trivia game, researchers for a Microsoft-backed investigation say their in-depth study of instant messaging networks proves that all humans really are just six degrees from actor Kevin Bacon.

Well, make that 6.6 degrees.

Using data gleaned from Microsoft's Messenger IM service, the researchers found that any IM user in the world was no further away from any other in a chain of personal contacts than 6.6 degrees, or links in the chain.

"This is the first time a planetary-scale social network has been available to validate the well-known 'six-degrees of separation finding,' " wrote researchers Eric Horvitz of Microsoft and Jure Leskovec of Carnegie Mellon University, in a paper that was presented earlier this year at the WWW 2008 conference in Beijing.

Horvitz and Leskovec studied more than 30 billion chat sessions, representing about 180 million users, over IM in June 2006 to reach their conclusion. The sample was more than 2 million times larger than that used in an earlier study that also confirmed the notion of six degrees of separation.

Horvitz and Leskovec, however, rounded up from 6.6. "We might say that, via the lens provided on the world by Messenger, we find that there are about '7 degrees of separation' among people," they wrote.

The study's findings have some remarkable implications. For instance, Bill Gates is only 6 or 7 degrees away from free software advocate and Microsoft critic Richard Stallman, and John McCain -- though miles apart in age and political beliefs -- is no more than just a handful of social connections away from his presidential rival, Barack Obama.

And, of course, it shows that the reader of this story is only a handful of IM contacts away from the Footloose star himself.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Social is a Business Imperative
Social is a Business Imperative
The use of social media for a host of business purposes is rising. Indeed, social is quickly moving from cutting edge to business basic. Organizations that have so far ignored social - either because they thought it was a passing fad or just didnít have the resources to properly evaluate potential use cases and products - must start giving it serious consideration.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Government, May 2014
NIST's cyber-security framework gives critical-infrastructure operators a new tool to assess readiness. But will operators put this voluntary framework to work?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
GE is a leader in combining connected devices and advanced analytics in pursuit of practical goals like less downtime, lower operating costs, and higher throughput. At GIO Power & Water, CIO Jim Fowler is part of the team exploring how to apply these techniques to some of the world's essential infrastructure, from power plants to water treatment systems. Join us, and bring your questions, as we talk about what's ahead.