Facebook could fade out like a disease, math model says

Jan 22, 2014
Search query data for “Facebook” and “MySpace” obtained from Google Trends overlaid on top of each other.

Facebook is like an infectious disease, experiencing a spike before its decline, according to US researchers who claim the social network will lose 80 percent of users by 2017.

Two doctoral candidates in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University made their astonishing claims in a paper published online at a scientific research archive, but not yet peer-reviewed.

Based on the rise and fall of MySpace, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler say that Facebook, the largest online social network in history, is set for a massive fall.

"Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models," they wrote.

They applied a modified epidemiological model to describe the dynamics of user activity of , using Google data that is publicly available.

It will make uncomfortable reading for the social media giant co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg, which has more than 1.1 billion users around the globe and turns 10 years old next month.

Their study said Facebook, whose shares climbed to a new high of $58.51 this week, has been in decline in terms of data usage since 2012.

"Facebook is expected to undergo rapid decline in the upcoming years, shrinking to 20 percent of its maximum size by December 2014," said the report posted online to peers at ArXiv.org.

"Extrapolating the best fit model into the future suggests that Facebook will undergo a in the coming years, losing 80 percent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017."

The new research comes amid surveys suggesting that younger users started gravitating away from Facebook in 2013.

Cannarella and Spechler told AFP they did not wish to comment publicly in person until their manuscript had completed its peer review process ahead of formal publication.

But at least for now, Facebook's fortunes are in good health.

Rising share prices have made chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg the latest tech billionaire and Zuckerberg, 29, has a personal fortune estimated at about $19 billion.

Explore further: Sandberg a billionaire as Facebook shares hit new high

More information: Epidemiological modeling of online social network dynamics, arxiv.org/abs/1401.4208

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User comments : 10

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katesisco
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2014
facebook is and always was a created fad--racoon coats and hulahoops. the difference is that many people were brought in by the hype and will loose a lot more than the $2.00 for a hula hoop.
PosterusNeticus
4.4 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2014
@katesisco, You're half right. Facebook will almost certainly go the way of its predecessors but you have to consider the site separately from the concept of social networking. The latter is just part of how we communicate now. People will migrate from service to service but they won't suddenly give up that form of communication just because one particular site goes away. We already have historical precedent for that.
dav_daddy
4.3 / 5 (3) Jan 22, 2014
Does anyone else think that trying to draw conclusions with a sample size of 1 is akin to closing your eyes a throwing a dart at a dart board?

I also wonder if they took fb buying out other networks into consideration?
davidivad
5 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2014
"Facebook is expected to undergo rapid decline in the upcoming years, shrinking to 20 percent of its maximum size by December 2014," said the report posted online to peers at ArXiv.org.

"Extrapolating the best fit model into 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."

well, which one is it?
how important is a post on ArXiv.com as far as credibility? why is it not peer reviewed?
who uses google information only to ascertain information about the competition?

was this article placed to see who was sleeping?

madrockriss
5 / 5 (1) Jan 23, 2014
Well, it's based on google search data... but did they take account of direct access to FB thru apps on smartphone and tab ? even on PC with windows 8 ?

There is a bias on Google, does they correlate it to the decline of Google Search... if any :)
madrockriss
3 / 5 (1) Jan 23, 2014
And what about Google+, lol
Sinister1812
not rated yet Jan 23, 2014
And if Facebook and Twitter slowly fizzled and died out, I don't think I'd miss it. In fact, I think it would bring more people back to Earth.

But nah, that'd just be too much of a good thing.
alfie_null
not rated yet Jan 23, 2014
As a company, you're gambling on both technology not changing, and your product not being perceived as a fad. I suspect companies like Facebook and Google understand this.

Keep your company agile, ready to morph in new directions.

Even Microsoft may understand this, albeit retrospectively. Anyone consider mapping the popularity of the desktop computer to this curve?
PosterusNeticus
not rated yet Jan 24, 2014
how important is a post on ArXiv.com as far as credibility? why is it not peer reviewed?


ArXiv is a pre-publish site which is why submissions aren't peer reviewed. That doesn't make it useless though. When a paper submitted to the archive is subsequently published in a reviewed journal you can still access the pre-publish version of the paper freely on arXiv. That's the best way to use it in my opinion.
Protoplasmix
not rated yet Jan 26, 2014
A data scientist at Facebook has used the same modeling technique to make some equally outlandish projections:
In keeping with the scientific principle "correlation equals causation," our research unequivocally demonstrated that Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely.

See http://www.facebo...21191849

Best one was a plot showing that Google Trends for "air" have also been steadily declining, with a projection that by 2060 we will be completely out of air. :))

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