Facebook: Everyone Is Only 4.74 Degrees Away

Privacy, the concept of friendship — add one more thing to the list of notions Facebook's smashed. The old assumption that we're all connected by six degrees of separation is outdated, Facebook says: now it's 4.74, across the globe.

Granted, the new law applies only to the social network itself, not the entire planet's population. But Facebook's 721 active users — the most detailed number we've seen to date, by the way — covers 10 per cent of the species. So it's not out of the question to extrapolate. And the data is pretty crazy:

While 99.6 per cent of all pairs of users are connected by paths with 5 degrees (6 hops), 92% are connected by only four degrees (5 hops). And as Facebook has grown over the years, representing an ever larger fraction of the global population, it has become steadily more connected. The average distance in 2008 was 5.28 hops, while now it is 4.74.

Thus, when considering even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra or the Peruvian rainforest, a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend.

So the world is getting closer as everyone friends everyone. And when you keep it to one single nation, where 84 per cent of our friendships tend to be, the relations are even tighter: "The world gets even smaller, and most pairs of people are only separated by 3 degrees (4 hops)."

So is the world narrowing, or are our definitions of relationships widening and diluting? Both could be the case, but I'm certain of the latter — what it says to claim I "know someone" means less now than it ever has, for better or for worse. [Facebook via PC World]

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