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Facebook shrinks world to four degrees of separation

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By John Glenday, Reporter

November 23, 2011 | 1 min read

The old adage that anyone anywhere can be connected to anyone else in just six degrees of separation has been debunked by Facebook – who’ve gone two better.

The social networking giant has conducted a study of its users, finding that they can all be linked to each other within a mere 4.74 ‘hops’ on average.

The conclusion was reached after an exhaustive month long study of the connections between 721m active users

In a statement the team said: “Using state-of-the-art algorithms…we were able to approximate the number of ‘hops’ [degrees of separation] between all pairs of individuals on Facebook.

“We found that six degrees actually overstates the number of links between typical pairs of users: While 99.6% of all pairs of users are connected by paths with 5 degrees (6 hops), 92% are connected by only four degrees (5 hops).”

Analysts caution however that the study takes no cognisance of actual friendships, instead lowering the bar to mere links in a chain.

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