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Facebook to die out by 2017, say experts

LONDON: Facebook has spread like an infectious disease, but we are slowly becoming immune to its attractions, and the platform will be largely abandoned by 2017, say researchers at Princeton University.
The forecast of Facebook’s impending doom was made by comparing the growth curve of epidemics to those of online social networks. Scientists argue that, like bubonic plague, Facebook will eventually die out.
The social network, which celebrates its 10th birthday on Feb 4, has survived longer than rivals such as Myspace and Bebo, but the Princeton forecast says it will lose 80 per cent of its peak user base within three years.
John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, from the US university’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department, have based their prediction on the number of times Facebook is typed into Google.
The charts produced by Google Trends show Facebook searches peaked in Dec 2012 and have since begun to trail off.
“Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models,” the authors claim in a paper entitled “epidemiological modelling of online social network dynamics”.
“Ideas are spread through communicative contact between different people who share ideas with each other. Idea manifesters ultimately lose interest with the idea and no longer manifest the idea, which can be thought of as the gain of ‘immunity’ to the idea.”
Facebook reported nearly 1.2 billion monthly active users in October, and is due to update investors on its traffic numbers at the end of the month.
While desktop traffic to its websites has indeed been falling, this is at least in part due to the fact that many people now only access the network via their mobile phones.
For their study, Cannarella and Spechler used what is known as the SIR (susceptible, infected, recovered) model of disease, which creates equations to map the spread and recovery of epidemics.
They tested various equations against the lifespan of Myspace, before applying them to Facebook. Myspace was founded in 2003 and reached its peak in 2007 with 300 million registered users, before falling out of use by 2011.
Purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for $580 million, Myspace was at one point valued at $12bn. It was sold by News Corp for just $35m.
By arrangement with the Guardian

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