1.78 Million Facebook Users May Die in 2011

Facebook tombstone

Does Facebook really have more than 500 million "active" users?

According to data from digital-legacy planning firm Entrustet, a big portion of these users will soon no longer be considered "active," by any reasonable measure. The company compared Facebook usership data with average death rates from the Center for Disease Control, and discovered that this year, around 480,000 Facebook users may pass away in the U.S., and 1.78 million worldwide. These figures are only likely to grow year to year, especially as Facebook expands pass the 600 million user mark.

So many profiles now fall out of the range of an "active" user. Beyond the deceased, there are endless duplicate accounts—Entrustet found that 150% of 20- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. are on Facebook—not exactly a plausible tally. What's more, a recent Gartner report estimated that in the coming years, roughly one in every ten of your friends on Facebook and other social networks will be nonhuman, meaning they'll be "social bots," automated profiles created by brands and organizations to engage consumers.

With profiles of the departed presumably being left untouched, with social bots soon to be plaguing the network, and with duplicate accounts running amok, how can Facebook ever provide an accurate "active" usership count? For the deceased, Facebook has created a system of "memorializing" accounts, which adjusts a profile's privacy settings to be seen only by confirmed family and friends. Immediate family members may also request the removal of a loved one's account. But the onus is on the deceased's relatives—if the "memorializing" feature is not activated, Facebook will continue to assume the profile still represents an active user. The same assumption goes for duplicate accounts as well—Facebook relies on users to merge accounts and report fake profiles.

To address this issue, Facebook has defined an "active" user as one who has logged in within the last 30 days. Thus, a month after a user passes away, that user is no longer considered "active," appropriately. For organizations and businesses registered for the social network, Facebook distinguishes their accounts as "profiles" rather than "user pages," and does not count them as active users. But for duplicate and fake accounts, keeping them accountable is more difficult, as users might be willing to log in to multiple accounts.

So while the company's latest partner Goldman Sachs has been boasting of Facebook's 600 million-plus userbase, it's unclear just how accurate those figures will be if investors—and advertisers, for that matter—ever choose to parse the details.

Follow Austin Carr on Twitter.

[Image by Andrew M. Hur]

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5 Comments

  • Robert Garcia

    I've been afraid of FB's organizational and management policies for awhile, and I continue to think that providing an organized platform for that many users might go completely wonky in a few years, if not months. I've seen all types of accounts, like some that where registered once, then never used again, and tons of trolling accounts as well.
    Let's not kid ourselves though, a s- load of people use FB, so I think that sooner or later, someone at the main office is going to figure out how to make a dime off of them in an efficient way, they just need to put the ship in order.

  • John Mack

    Good point. The way Facebook is set up it is not clear how to delete an account. Instead many simply make the account temporarily inactive when they mean to delete.

    There will always be a role for Facebook. It won't go away but how it "monetizes" may become less lucrative. Any Goldman Sachs deal is designed to reward Goldman Sachs and a few cherished investors and burn all other early investors. The price is run up, the "ins" sell, and the rest are burned when the price plunges. Ho-hum.

  • ErnestKFinch

    1.78 million this year is small potatoes compared to the fact (endorsed by George Lucas) that EVERYONE will die next year. That's gonna put a dent in EVERYONE'S stats.

  • Udayan Banerjee

    Facebook may have reached the peak of it hype. Going forward there are 5 different possible scenario:
    1. Next big thing happens - Facebook looses it charm
    2. Remains a social networking site
    3. Encroaches into others territory
    4. Seriously threatens Google and others
    5. Achieves complete dominance of the web
    http://setandbma.wordpress.com...