A recent study by the Facebook data team and the University of Milan shows that there are only 4.74 degrees of separation between all users on the social network. In fact, the number of degrees has been dropping since 2008, from 5.28 then to 4.74 now.
Not only is this an interesting indication of where the modern world world is moving to, but it also highlights Facebook’s long-term strategy, and its dominant market position in social networking. Founder Mark Zuckerberg has long said that his goal is to make the world more “open and connected.”
Facebook’s aim is to be the social layer for everything in the world — the way you get recommendations for music, news articles, products to buy, and anything else. These closer social connections mean that Facebook is getting more and more information about what users and the people they are connected to socially like or don’t like. This information then goes towards making smarter recommendations for all of the advertisements on the site, and to create a more valuable platform for third-party developers.
A competitor that hopes to provide a separate social layer of its own is going to face a very difficult task in trying to beat these ever-strengthening connections and the possibilities they create.