The concept of "Six Degrees of Separation" was originally based on an experiment by Stanley Milgram where he asked people to try to send a letter to someone totally unconnected to them by passing it from person to person among people they knew. The idea was that, on average, any two random people could be connected within six connections. However, more recently, Milgram's study had been somewhat discredited. Yet, a new study, coming from Microsoft researchers suggests that six degrees may be fairly accurate
. The researchers looked at data on how people use Microsoft's MSN Instant Messaging software, and discovered that the average chain length to connect any two users on the software was 6.6, and that 78% of all random pairs could be connected in fewer than 7 hops. Of course, what isn't accounted for is whether or not this has changed in the 40 years since Milgram's experiment, during which technology may have made connectivity much easier. Also, thanks to things like instant messaging, people who I might have otherwise completely lost touch with are now "permanently" listed as my friends. That's a bit different than the world in 1967.