According to the researchers at Princeton University, the most popular social network in the world, Facebook, has spread like smoke, but now people slowly become immune to its attractions. The predictions are that the platform will be largely abandoned by 2017.
The expectations of Facebook’s impending doom build on comparing the growth curve of epidemics to those of online social networks. The researchers believe that, like bubonic plague, Facebook may also eventually die out.
Facebook celebrates its 10th birthday this week and has survived longer than its many rivals like Myspace and Bebo. However, the Princeton forecast states that the network will lose 80% of its user base within the next several years.
The researchers have based their prediction on the number of times the word “Facebook” was typed into Google search. According to Google Trends charts, Facebook searches peaked a year ago and have since been slowing down. The researchers explained that ideas, just like diseases, have been spreading infectiously between people before dying out one day. This model is successfully described with epidemiological models and can be applied to online social network dynamics. The matter is that ideas are spread between people who share ideas with each other, but once idea manifesters lose interest with it and no longer manifest the idea, they get “immune”.
Four months ago, Facebook reported almost 1.2 billion monthly active users, and the company is due to update investors on its traffic numbers soon. Although desktop traffic to the service is reported to be falling, it can be explained by the fact that people now mostly access the network via their mobile phones.
The researchers used a “SIR” (susceptible, infected, recovered) model of disease for their study. The latter creates equations to map the spread and recovery of epidemics. Different equations against the lifespan of Myspace were tested before being applied to Facebook. The former network was created in 2003 and reached its peak in 2007 with 300 million registered users, but fell out of use by 2011. Acquired by News Corp for $580 million, Myspace soon signed a $900 million deal with Google and was once valued at $12 billion. However, in the end it was sold by News Corp for as little as $35 million.
Well, the 870 million users who access Facebook via their mobile phones can easily explain the drop in Google searches – they don’t have to type the word Facebook into Google to log on, because they have mobile apps now. Still, Facebook has officially admitted that during the previous 3 months they did see a decrease in daily users, especially among younger teens. However, the company’s investors are quite happy with Facebook’s share price, which reached record highs this month, valuing the social network at $142 billion.