Abstract: Social networks have the surprising property of being searchable: Ordinary people are capable of directing messages through their network of acquaintances to reach a specific but distant target person in only a few steps. We present a model that offers an explanation of social network searchability in terms of recognizable personal identities: sets of characteristics measured along a number of social dimensions. Our model defines a class of searchable networks and a method for searching them that may be applicable to many network search problems, including the location of data files in peer-to-peer networks, pages on the World Wide Web, and information in distributed databases.
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