January 20, 2019

How to Join a Social Network in 1998

In 1998, I got an invite to what many consider the first online social network: sixdegrees.com (deceptively, that link will take you to the Wikipedia article about the website and not the website itself; I have no excuse). The invite came in the form of a lengthy email with instructions on how to join. I could either use the website or actually do the entire process via email, adding my friends using a peculiar and precise format in the body of the email. The subject of the email was simply the name of the person who had added me as a friend.

I came across the invite recently so I figured I’d share it here as a curious bit of internet history. It’s interesting that in 1998 they had to actually explain why someone would want to join such a thing. Here is the full text of the email with light redactions:

Name: David Friedman
E-Mail Address: [my old email redacted]
sixdegrees Password: stopsock

Hi. You’ve been sponsored as “Friend” by Rachel [last name redacted] as part of something called sixdegrees, one of the fastest growing phenomena on the Web, located at http://www.sixdegrees.com

You may have already heard of the six degrees of separation concept - where everyone on the planet is connected to each other through fewer than 6 people. Well, we haven’t quite connected the whole world yet, but there are over a million people participating, and over 900,000 of them are connected in one giant chain.

And, just by confirming your relationship with Rachel, you can instantly tap into this interconnected community of interesting people from all over the world.

So what? Well, by getting connected, you can come to the Web site (which is completely FREE) and use a whole variety of valuable, fun and intriguing services that make use of this massive chain of connections.

You can come see who’s logged on the site right now and when you find someone interesting, we’ll show you exactly how you’re connected no matter how many degrees it takes, and then you can instant message them.

You can also find out how you’re connected to that head of personnel at the big firm where you’ve been trying to get your foot in the door.

You can chat with people from around the globe and then see who you know in common.

You can post burning questions on your own personalized bulletin board and get valuable answers from your “circle” (your friends and friends of friends).

You can even get Movie recommendations from the people you’re connected to.

So, stop by the site at http://www.sixdegrees.com to learn more and give it a try. (You can log in with this password: stopsock).


You can also get things started and get yourself connected right from this e-mail:

** To confirm your relationship with Rachel, just send a reply that says only CONFIRM on the first line of the message body

* To deny this particular relationship (but keep open the possibility of joining sixdegrees if the concept intrigues you) send a reply that says only DENY

* And, if you’d like to make sure you don’t hear from us again (even if somebody else you know lists you as a contact) then simply send a reply which says REMOVE in the SUBJECT LINE so we can process your request right away

Thanks, and we look forward to seeing you at sixdegrees.


And, if you’re really ambitious, you can get your network of connections growing right away. Just list the people you think might be interested in participating in sixdegrees and we’ll contact them with an e-mail like this one which mentions your name and invites them to join.

Just follow these directions:

* Click your mail program’s REPLY button.

* On the FIRST line of the message body of the reply e-mail that opens, type only the word CONFIRM to let us know that you are in fact Rachel’s Friend.

* On the next line of the message body list the first and last names and e-mail addresses of the people you’d like to invite (you can list as many as you’d like - but we recommend you list at least two), and the relationship numbers that correspond with how those people are related to you.


* That the first name, last name, e-mail address and relationship number are separated by SEMI-COLONS.

* You follow the format of these examples:

John; Smith; jsmith@fakeplace.com; 12
Jane; Doe; superjane@fakeplace.com; 3

* And that you define each relationship by choosing a number from this list:

1=wife 2=husband 3=life partner
4=significant other 5=mother 6=father
7=sister 8=brother 9=daughter
10=son 11=other family member 12=friend
13=employer 14=employee 15=co-worker
16=client 17=service provider 18=business contact
19=fellow alum 20=acquaintance

We look forward to hearing from you!


PLEASE NOTE: All replies to this address are processed by a computer. If you have any problems, questions or requests send an e-mail to issues@sixdegrees.com and you’ll receive a prompt and courteous response.

And, if you’d like to review our privacy statement just visit http://www.sixdegrees.com/Public/About/Privacy.asp


sixdegrees is Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.


The website sent out weekly emails with your stats and some ideas for making the most of the network. I opted out after receiving five of these “member updates”. In the last one, these were my stats:

Total 1st degree contacts: 4
Total 2nd degree contacts: 13
Total 3rd degree contacts: 22
Total 4th degree contacts: 93
Total 5th degree contacts: 281
Total 6th degree contacts: 2368
Total 1st-6th degree contacts: 2781

Messages posted by you: 0
Responses to your postings: 0