Facebook is going to die and it will lose 80% of its population between 2015 and 2017. This is what two researchers from the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton have predicted. In a paper published on the 17th of January, these two researchers by analyzing Google search query data and using epidemiological models to explain user adoption and abandonment of online social networks have come to this conclusion.
The researches have used the SIR model of disease spread and have modified it by “incorporating infectious recovery dynamics such that contact between a recovered and infected member of the population is required to recovery”. After having built the modified SIR model (irSIR), they have validated it by “using publicly available Google search qurey data for “MySpace” as a case study of an online social network that has exhibited both adoption and abandonment phases”. As they write “extrapolating the best fit model into the future suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017″.
As they have noticed thanks to the search query data, Facebook “has already reached the peak of its popularity and has entered a decline phase”. Accordingly to the best fit, Facebook is expected to undergo rapid decline in the upcoming years, shrinking to 20% of its maximum size by December 2014.
What we wonder is if someone at Menlo Park has read this paper and tried to understand why the predictions are against Facebook. Probably they were already thinking about this problem and when Facebook would have reached its “zenit”. That’s why Mark Zuckerberg in the past months has started a “no-profit” campaign to spread the use of the internet around the world. If more people get access to the internet, more people will start use what we have been using for the past years, email, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and all the forms of entertainment related to the web 2.0.
What the study doesn’t also point out is the fact that MySpace’s decline happened when Facebook was getting its early adopters and momentum. That’s one of the main reasons that overwhelmed MySpace, which should be summed to wrong decisions taken by the company. There are two things the the model hasn’t, in the first case, or can’t, in the second, predict. Further we can’t definitely be sure that the MySpace’s model is exactly right. MySpace was one of the first social networks, which didn’t even reach one tenth of Facebook monthly active users.
More than a year ago, we published an article that was listing the main reasons why Facebook could have failed. In the past year, we have seen how Facebook has been able to fix those aspects that made the product weak and it’s trying to improve others. Moreover when we look at the study we need to consider that this was made for Facebook the product and not Facebook the company.
At the moment, Facebook inc. owns another big asset, which is Instagram and has tried to acquire, several times, Snapchat. Since it was born Facebook made 43 acquisitions, including the domain name, which have improved the main product, the social network. What now they can try to do is to diversify and the Snapchat offer was an attempt to do that. A company that is worth more than $140B can’t just focus on one product if it aims at being alive for the next decades.
In the same way Google has created dozens of different assets, Facebook should try to enlarge its ecosystem. That’s why we have suggested a Facebook’s Tablet or something that could create another economy within the company. We think that the paper from a scientific point of view might even be right, but that’s not the end of Facebook. There are several dozens of “human aspects”, which can’t be analysed through data. Further if Zuckerberg is serious about expanding the usage of the internet, the game changes because we are talking about reaching people who have never used Facebook. Who knows? In the future it might be obsolete in the United States, but have great popularity in Africa.
In the next years, both Facebook and Google will have to figure out another way to make money and this is what it really could kill both. Ads are not cool anymore and people have started to install plugins to block them. If the ads business model goes down, Facebook will die and with it, the entire internet or most of it.