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Yahoo and Facebook testing the six degrees of separation

six degrees Thanks to the Internet, our world is really, really small–and Yahoo is going to try and prove it. Teaming up with Facebook, Yahoo Research is heading up something called the “Small World Experiment,” which will use the social networking site to test the six degrees of separation theory.

participationUpon signing up, you are given a randomly selected person who has chosen to participate in the Small World Experiment. Then, you are given the opportunity to message one person from your friends list, picking the person you think has the best chance of connecting you to the first user. For instance, assigned a girl from Brazil, we decided to choose a friend who worked and traveled in the region. Then he does the same, until hopefully you are connected to the original stranger by six people or fewer.

And what better way is there to test this theory? It was originally done via paper mail, when a Harvard sociologist sent out some 300 letters to random strangers with similar instructions to get these letters to other “target” individuals. The average number of letters sent to reach them was six. But fast forward to today, and Facebook is the ideal platform to test if the theory still applies. Our world and its population is obviously much larger than it used to be, but social networking might be making it relatively smaller. Facebook’s social graph of 750 million users (who average 130 friends each) will see if that’s true or not.

Facebook is based on the idea of connecting the whole world, but social networking is extremely young and is anything but a science yet. It’s encouraging that we’re using all this data that’s being accumulated and discovering if it’s creating anything more concrete than a generation built on narcissism. You can sign up here to take part.