Emerging Technology

Instant messaging proves six degrees of separation

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The idea that there are only six degrees of separation between any two people has been proved to be more than a myth by a study looking at the flow of instant messages around the world.

The idea that there are only six degrees of separation between any two people has been proved to be more than a myth by a study looking at the flow of instant messages around the world.

Microsoft researchers looked at 30 billion IM conversations – the entire Microsoft Messenger IM network as it stood in 2006 – between 180 million people around the world, according to The Australian.

By analysing the interconnections between different IM users, the researchers were able to construct a map of interconnectedness. And the result? Each IM user was separated from any one other by an average 6.6 degrees.

Of course, since not everyone in the world has a computer or uses instant messaging, the research can’t be said to hold true for the world’s population.

But it does give a fascinating insight into just how the internet is bringing the world together – and the potentially useful consequences of that interconnection.

“They could create large meshes of people who could be mobilised with the touch of a return key,” Eric Horvitz, one of the lead researchers on the project, says.

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