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  • Cambridge Researchers Discover New Way to Predict Online Friendships
Technology Articles > Social Networking > Social Network News > Cambridge Researchers Discover New Way to Predict Online Friendships

Social networking websites, like Facebook and Google Plus, are all about staying connected with friends and family online. These websites can also be used to make new connections, broadening one's social network. Part of every social networking website is dedicated to helping users add more people they know to their social networks. The primary purpose behind this dedication is to increase the number of users on the website, recruiting existing users to tell their friends about the website, hopefully enticing them to join.

Unfortunately, the current system used to suggest connections is underwhelming to say the least. When you provide an email address, Facebook and Google are able to gather all your contacts, and let you know who is and isn't already using their website. Social networking sites also suggest connections between friends-of-friends, which is only slightly increases your chance of becoming friends with someone you hadn't already become friends with.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have formulated a new way for social networking sites to accurately suggest connections. These suggestions are not based on friends-of-friends, or current contacts. "Essentially this is a way in which we can predict how people will make new friends. We know that we are likely to become friends with friends-of-friends, but what we find is there are specific places which foster the creation of new friendships and that they have specific characteristics," explains Salvatore Scellato, one of the three researchers to develop this theory.

Salvatore Scellato, Anastasios Nouslas and Cecilia Mascolo went in search of finding more ways to use social networking to make new friends. They found that the places people visit are a significant indicator of their personal preferences. People who populate the same places, often are like-minded and can became genuine friends. "For our research we analyzed the location-based social network Gowalla to see how users created social connections over a period of four months. We discovered that about 30 per cent of all new social links appear among users that check-in to the same places. Thus, these 'place friends' represent disconnected users becoming direct connections," Scellato added.

"By combining place friends with friends-of-friends, we can make the prediction space about 15 times smaller and yet, cover 66 percent of new social ties. It turns out that the properties of the places we interact can determine how likely we are to develop social ties. Offices, gyms and schools are more likely to aid development rather than other places, such as football stadiums or airports. In those places, it's highly unlikely people will develop a social connection. Our results show it's possible to improve the performance of link prediction systems on location-based services that can be employed to keep the users of social networks interested and engaged with that particular website." The program has some potential to reduce human interaction and connection to statistics and probability. At the heart, however, it's really just a matter of matching people based on preferences. Social networking websites, like Facebook and Google Plus, are all about staying connected with friends and family online.