Unless you are Facebook, chances are that your online service partly tailors to real life friends and "internet friends." But what's the split? And, perhaps more importantly, how much does the idea that you *might* meet in real life influence the cadre of Internet friends. Are "internet friends" just an broad and elaborate lead up to real life friendships, or something entirely different?
I don't have any conclusions here, more that I'm thinking in through in the context of Loudcrowd, where a significant percentage of friendships developed there lead to Facebook friendships.
One interesting study on this was talked about in Ars Technica where a team of scientists evaluated logs from Everquest. There was some interesting indicators there:
- Players in the same time zone are 1.25 time more likely to partner. This makes sense since you have to play synchronously so much to team up.
- Distance had a much larger effect even than time zone; players within 10 kilometers of each other were five times more likely to interact. Hmm.
There was also some interesting data about whether this a lonely "pasty white teenager in a basement" thing.
- Average age is 31
- Older age groups spent more time online than younger groups of players
- The play was generally a displacement of TV or movie watching, not other activities (such as, say, hanging with friends in real life)