Research from Princeton University compares Facebook to an ‘infectious disease” and predicts we will all recover
Social networking giant Facebook has been compared to an infectious disease by researchers at Princeton University, who have suggested that the site will have lost 80 percent of its users by 2017.
Facebook has been compared to a disease before, most notably in the FriendFace parody from a 2008 episode of the IT Crowd (See below: “It’s like a cold, or a terrible plague!”). The University has taken this literally and attempted to combine data from Google’s Trends service with research on infectious diseases to predict the future of the Facebook outbreak.
Google Trends reveals that searches for “Facebook” peaked in December 2012, and the researchers conclude that Facebook has already reached the peak of its popularity and has entered a decline phase, stating, “The future suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 percent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.”
The report, authored by John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler from Princeton’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department, has not yet been peer reviewed, but has already gained much attention, coming weeks before Facebook celebrates its tenth birthday on 4 February.
Going the way of MySpace?
The researchers claim their methods fit in well with other social media networks, particularly Myspace, which saw a rapid decline following a peak in 2007. The report said that every user who joins a social network expects to stay indefinitely, “but ultimately loses interest as their peers begin to lose interest”.
There have been recent worries at Facebook that their site is losing its appeal amongst the youth market. The company is facing unprecedented levels of competition as young people increasingly turn to instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat in order to stay in touch. There has also been debate that Facebook is seen as something for older people, with many of the site’s first wave of users becoming parents since its launch.
However, the researchers may simply be drawing a have spurious data. The recent decline in searches could simply be down to people logging in differently. Many people log onto Facebook on a PC by first searching for “Facebook” (yes, really). Now many of those people use smartphones. Around 870 million people use Facebook via their smartphones, mostly with an integrated Facebook app, doing away with the need to search for the site.
Facebook currently has more than 1.2 billion users worldwide, and was recently valued at around £84 billion. It was recently ranked by search engine Bing as 2013’s most searched social media platform, and is apparently looking to diversify its services by moving into news content delivery and video advertising.
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