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Study: Facebook Will Lose 80% Of Its Users By 2017

A new study out of Princeton uses disease modeling to predict the social network's impending doom.

Pour one out for Facebook, which in a few short years may become a shell of its current, blue-bordered self. According to a new study (PDF) from Princeton's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Facebook will see a dramatic drop in usage rates before the end of the decade, losing 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.

The study, which was authored by two Princeton PhD candidates, was modeled after the mathematical adoption rates of infectious diseases, which typically crest before plummeting. Make what you will of the plague metaphor.

A few caveats worth considering, though. Researchers validated their epidemiological model using a social network that had a similar ascension: MySpace. Obviously, Facebook has the luxury of MySpace's past missteps to guide its future growth.

Then, researchers used Google Trends—which, evidence has shown, is surprisingly accurate for tracking flu outbreaks—to evaluate social network adoption rates.

Of course, the number of times the word "Facebook" appears in Google's analytics isn't the cleanest indicator of the social network's overall health, especially when you consider other factors like mobile, which is at 100 million users and growing.

Pathogens, after all, are pretty good at evolving.

[Image: Wikipedia]

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  • The profile for MySpace doesn't fit the epidemiology model that is predicted for Facebook. Instead of a dramatic drop off it appears much more gradual. Wouldn't this shed some doubt on the reliability of the model?

  • People click on the app on mobile to find Facebook, not search for it on Google like it is some unknown site that needs to be discovered on a desktop.

    Facebook may well have a decline in users in future years, but it will be because of mobile competitors like Kik, Snapchat, Wechat, Line and others expanding their services. These mobile competitors won't be found by Google searches either.

  • business scenarios as epidemiology. Pres. Obama's quip at a meet & greet last week predicted this, as did the EUR 18-25 survey. but i am sharing this because I first read it in the FB blue walled garden...

  • Zak Nasser

    Search Queries might be an indicator for Facebook's growth rate. We can assume that people search for the network if they are new to it or not on it currently. Whereas current members will go directly to or use the mobile app thus not be accounted for by search results. Granted FB isn't perfect, I think most people will be on the network by 2017. Search queries will plummet to near 0 as the study predicts - people will access FB without Google