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Facebook Is a Plague That'll Burn Out In a Few Years, Says Study 338

Nerval's Lobster writes "Facebook will bleed the majority of its users over the next three years, according to Princeton researchers John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, who arrived at that conclusion by comparing Facebook to an infectious disease. That's sort of logical: both Facebook and viruses depend on networks of human beings to "transmit" and grow; and just as people shake off viruses, they should (according to the theory, at least) eventually stop using Facebook. But how do a bunch of determined scientists actually trace Facebook's theoretical rise and fall? Cannarella and Spechler decided to use the frequency with which "Facebook" is typed into Google as their main dataset (various other studies have also relied on Google Trends as the basis for predictions). Those search queries reached a peak in December 2012. The researchers took that dataset and plugged it into prebuilt model for the spread of infectious disease (PDF), tweaked things a bit, and found that Facebook—like any plague that's burned through a significant portion of a population—will decline before the decade is out. Seem unlikely? To be fair, the researchers ran the term 'MySpace' through their model and found it traced that social network's rise and fall with some accuracy; but Facebook is much larger than MySpace at its peak, and woven much more pervasively throughout the fabric of the Web—thousands of Websites rely on the Network That Zuckerberg Built to connect with users, advertise, sell products, and much more. That prevalence alone should slow any Facebook decline. In addition, Facebook has begun releasing standalone apps such as Messenger, as part of a broader strategy to expand the company's branding and functionality beyond its core Website. Whether or not you like this theory that Facebook will 'burn out' has any validity, it's clear the social network is trying to mutate."
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Facebook Is a Plague That'll Burn Out In a Few Years, Says Study

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  • I'll be happy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:19PM (#46049659)

    ..when it's finally gone /first

    • by Cryacin ( 657549 )
      Yay, no more facepalmers asking me to "like" them! Now to deal with all the twits out there...
    • Re:I'll be happy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Garridan ( 597129 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:01PM (#46050239)
      Don't get your hopes up. I've got a different theory: people have stopped using google to find / research facebook. Those who use facebook use it more than they use the rest of the internet -- they don't need to find it, it's the first thing their browser opens. Those who don't use it already know what it is. No need to google it.
      • Re:I'll be happy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:27PM (#46050611)

        Not only that, but in the last two years, lots of smartphones have come out with a Facebook app as standard. Many people are using those rather than using a browser.

        • The increased use of "apps" generally should have some impact as well. It wasn't very many years ago that many average internet users typed every website into Google (or whatever default homepage/search engine they used) to find them, even if they'd been to the site before. Now they press the app on their tablets or phones as often as not.
    • Don't be too optimistic. Not all infectious diseases burn themselves out. Malaria has been endemic for thousands of years.

    • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:42PM (#46050773) Homepage Journal

      the coincidences are just too many to be random...

  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:20PM (#46049663) Homepage Journal
    If anything, Facebook will contract to an identity service provider used by web sites such as Answers.com and The Huffington Post to verify that each account is associated to one real person.
    • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:53PM (#46050153)

      If anything, Facebook will contract to an identity service provider used by web sites such as Answers.com and The Huffington Post to verify that each account is associated to one real person.

      It might do that, but even teens are starting to realize that Facebook provides way too much information to be uses as an identity service provider.

      Still THIS particular study seems a bit flaky, because it was done by looking for the frequency that "Facebook" appears in Google searches (which presumably includes simply entering "facebook.com" in the Chrome address bar, which some people still insist results in a search.)

      With Facebook ALREADY being the home page of the addicted, and with a Facebook app on just about every mobile device, not many people have to search for Facebook, as it is already at their fingertips. According to Alexa statistics [alexa.com], 99.28% of visitors arrive directly at the site, and only 7.7% arrived from Google. This just screams "Browser Home Page".

      Decline in search results might not be indicative of decline in usage. (Unfortunately).

      • by mooingyak ( 720677 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:16PM (#46050439)

        99.28% of visitors arrive directly at the site, and only 7.7% arrived from Google

        But what about the other -6.98% ?

        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          Arrival destination (which page they arrived at) is not from the same universe as source (where they arrived from).
          Those two would never be expected to sum to 100%.

          99.28% arrive directly to www.facebook.com
          but only 7.7% of those people came from google.com
          This indicates they weren't searching for facebook, or even entering facebook (without a complete domain name) in Chrome browser which results in a search. They were direct hits, which, as I indicated, sounds like a home page setting, or a mobile app usag

        • by ignavus ( 213578 )

          99.28% of visitors arrive directly at the site, and only 7.7% arrived from Google

          But what about the other -6.98% ?

          Clearly they left the site.

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      Is there really anything that stops me from creating a few dozen Facebook identities? Yes, it's more work than inventing new usernames to spam a blog, but it doesn't seem all that difficult really.

      • by weave ( 48069 )
        A lot of this happens already so people can comment/troll on various Gannet newspaper sites.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:23PM (#46049703)

    Frienster > Myspace > Facebook > SpaceFace > [and so on] ...

    • Unfortunately spaceface.com is already registered. Here I thought I had my one shot at making millions...
    • Nothing new, just the web business model at work. Dot coms are like matches, they burn bright and die fast.
  • Friendface (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:24PM (#46049711)

    IT Crowd FTW:

  • by nani popoki ( 594111 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:25PM (#46049733) Homepage
    On the other hand, Facebook might be more like a cold -- something that everybody dislikes but cannot entirely avoid.
    • Like LinedIN? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I went to a job fair recently.

      I was told that they weren't taking resumes there, but asked if I had a LinkedIN profile.

      When I expressed that I didn't because I don't like social networks, I was corrected. "LinkedIN isn't like Facebook where you get posts of cats."

      And he explained that they did ALL recruiting from LinkedIN.

      My head assploded wondering why THEY were at a job fair, but never the less, I created my LinkedIN profile - sweet as honey - with my Github projects. No bites. No one even looks at th

  • Mom rule (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xtal ( 49134 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:27PM (#46049747)

    My 70 year old mother uses Facebook.

    Once a technology reaches that level of integration into society, it, or at least the core product benefit, will be with us forever.

    • Yeah, I'm not buying that Facebook is going away. I think it's ripe for a coup, but it's too integrated into the way people think; much like googling is as reflexive and act as checking your email. That being said, FB's shameless privacy intrusions mean I've never stayed logged in, rarely use it, and only keep an account as a place holder should someone from the past try to look me up.

      • by mlts ( 1038732 )

        Devil's advocate here: Other than being the local "watering hole", what service or services does FB provide that nobody else does?

        For authentication, MS and Google can provide that, or one can use OpenID. In fact, during the age of GINAs with XP, I had a machine that authenticated users using their Slashdot IDs.

        For walls, cat pictures, random ramblings, and political statements, the Web has done that for decades. MySpace, G+, Blogger, Livejournal, Deadjournal, and many custom Web pages have this.

        For onli

        • For authentication, MS and Google can provide that, or one can use OpenID.

          Google already provides OpenID. But whether OpenID can replace Facebook authentication depends on whether a particular relying party trusts a particular OpenID provider not to grant distinct identifiers to sockpuppets of one real person. With a verified Facebook account, at least you can be sure that the identifier is connected to a cell phone subscription.

          For online messaging, SMS, MMS, old fashioned E-mail, AIM, MSN, Yahoo, IRC, talk, and rwall have been around. Similar with offline messages and group chats.

          I was under the impression that Facebook's spam filter had more teeth than e-mail or the popular IM systems because Facebook can apply stronger penalties

        • Do you need more? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:17PM (#46050469) Journal

          It needs no more than being a ubiquitous water cooler. What is compelling about FB is that it's a stream of consciousness of your friends and relatives. You can leave it for a while and come back and you haven't really "missed" anything. It's the many-to-many with no programming, scripting, or other aggregator that makes it useful to everyone.

          Here's what makes it special: you get to stay in touch with people you wouldn't normally stay in touch with, or even want to necessarily. WTF is that about? I have quite a few friends on FB - old (like HS) and new (just met at a class) - with whom I share enough common ground to get through half a beer in a bar before the uncomfortable silence sets in. With FB, I don't lose those friends to the physical and temporal distance which separates us - instead, I pick up bits and pieces they like to share about how their lives are going. As a result, an old 1/2 beer friend recently visited town, but we polished off an entire pitcher because we knew enough about one another - after 20 years of not seeing each other - that we had several things in common. I might keep up with 15-20 people, tops, but through facebook I actually still feel connected to a couple hundred. Not everybody journals, and of those, I'm not going to go to 200 separate pages, and even if I did, the interactive nature just isn't there.

        • Other than just pure momentum, I just don't see anything FB unique that can't be duplicated by G+ or someone else. Their backend software is pretty cool, but that isn't exactly something the users see or care about.

          There's nothing that Wal-mart sells that can't be bought elsewhere. But like Facebook, the reason it dominates is because it does all of that in one place, has a good back end (understatement for Wal-mart), has a well-established customer base that is content to stick with what they know despite what all the "cool" kids think, and leverages its size and reach well to keep its advantages intact.

    • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

      My 70 year old mother uses Facebook.

      I will raise you with:
      My 14 year old nephew recently closed his Facebook account after many years because "nothing is going on" there anymore. Possibly too many adults on Facebook now?

      • My 14 year old nephew recently closed his Facebook account after many years because "nothing is going on" there anymore. Possibly too many adults on Facebook now?


        Maybe he decided it's no fun since, now that he's over the age of 13, it's no longer illegal for him to register on websites without written consent of his parents, so he lost interest.

        You probably think I'm kidding. Only slightly; only slightly.

    • AOL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CrAlt ( 3208 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:38PM (#46049911) Homepage Journal

      My grandparents had AOL.My parents had AOL. Everyone I knew had at least an AIM account. Where is AOL/AIM now?

    • My 70 year old mother uses Facebook.

      it... will be with us forever.

      Like an Oldsmobile? :p

    • In some form maybe. But the young people will keep on using other services and just have facebook if they want to contact their parents/grandparents. Because you can`t really not accept a friend request from your parents or grandparents and once you do they can see all those lovely private updates from your friends about the last party and how you hooked up with that boy/girl or how you tried pot for the first time or...
    • Yeah - none of the other social networks, including MySpace, had anywhere near the penetration that FB does now. Across age groups and across different countries. I live outside the US and although we were certainly aware MySpace existed, even in its heyday I knew almost nobody with a MySpace account. But Facebook? 1.2 billion users ... that's literally every second man, woman and child in the developed world (roughly).

      It's popular because it's so useful single point of call to keep in touch with almost eve

  • Viruses Burn Out? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stormy Dragon ( 800799 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:27PM (#46049749) Homepage

    Kind of like how the flu season peaked in February 2013, and now there will never be big flu outbreaks again.

    • by magsol ( 1406749 )
      Hence the "mutation" aspect of disease spread, otherwise the infection would be one-and-done. Just like the flu.
  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:27PM (#46049751) Homepage Journal

    "Cannarella and Spechler decided to use the frequency with which "Facebook" is typed into Google as their main dataset"

    This is probably too obvious of a hole to poke in a scientific work, but... How do they know that it doesn't mean that users are either a) giving up using Google or b) remembering where the fuck to find facebook.com? It would be interesting if they tried the same trick on GMail (a service that grew fast from word of mouth but is decidedly not in decline last i checked) and see what their prediction says.

    • So as I understand it, you want to use searches for Gmail to rule out other things that could have caused the 2013 decline in searches for Facebook. Google Trends: Gmail [google.com] happens not to show this sort of decline.
    • by Ravaldy ( 2621787 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:41PM (#46049961)

      I never type facebook.com or search it. I click the app icon on my phone. Seems their number coincide very much with the popularity growth of smart phones.

      These people should focus on other studies. This is a waste of time for anybody to read.

    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      A big part of it is, I think, that people are now using Facebook apps on their phones and/or tablets. From the people I know, facebook seems to be somewhere between texting and email, in terms of significance of communication.

      Facebook is a thing, 'facebook.com' is a site. We don't do web sites anymore, this is the 'mobile' era.

      Their 'peak' nicely coincides with the first Christmas where people bought tablets and started supplanting their desktops with portable devices. With a lot of work places blocking sit

  • Same (Score:4, Funny)

    by The Cat ( 19816 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:28PM (#46049755)

    Facebook is AOL without the CDs.

  • Social networking, or rather doing so on a particular website, is a fad; it's no different than slap bracelets, Troll dolls, Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo, etc., etc., etc.

    Eventually, the unwashed masses will find some other new 'toy' to obsess over, and Facebook will turn into the morose, resigned version of Woody from Toy Story III*.

    * I assume; to be honest, I never actually saw that one.

    • Remember cell phones, Islam, and the Republican party. Not everythig new is a fad.
      • Remember cell phones, Islam, and the Republican party. Not everythig new is a fad.

        Except Facebook isn't "something new." It's a company that has capitalized on the recent phenomena of social networking (which is "something new," and will likely exist so long as near-instant global communications are still feasible). Just like the companies that capitalized on the popularity of pocket bikes back in about 2005. Pocket bikes still exist, but since they aren't experiencing the explosive growth they once did, you'll find there are a lot fewer companies making them today then back when they we

    • I doubt people are going to get over the whole "use the internet to communicate with friends" thing any time soon.

    • by Andrio ( 2580551 )

      You should. After I did, my first thought was "Holy hell, how often is the third of a movie series better than both the original and the sequel?"

  • by Capt.Albatross ( 1301561 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:30PM (#46049779)

    While I would not be disappointed if this were true, the whole thing seems to be predicated on a dubious analogy. What is playing the role of the immune system here? In the case of MySpace, Facebook seems to have played that role.

    • That is what I was thinking. Facebook helped kill MySpace, it didn't just die on it's own. Plus, nobody can stay sick with a virus or bacteria forever. They either get over it or die. There is nothing that will force you to abandon Facebook after using it for a year or two. People who like it can use it for their whole lives if they want. I guess something like Herpes or maybe even HIV with the current drugs might be similar in a way.

      They mention how businesses use Facebook to connect to their customers. In

    • What is playing the role of the immune system here?

      Well, there's the alternative of host extinction.

      But yeah. Just because two things grow similarly does NOT mean they dissipate similarly.

  • All things end (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monoman ( 8745 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:30PM (#46049789) Homepage

    When the parents and grandparents start using it the "kids" tend to move elsewhere. Eventually the parents and grandparents follow. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have done a Google Trends search for reproduction [google.com], and as you can see, interest has been steadily declining. Based on my findings, I conclude that humanity is no longer interested in procreation. By extrapolating into the future, you can see that all humans will have died out around the year 2140. Mark your calendars accordingly.
  • I am reminded how Microsoft managed to "mature" the WinTel PC market with a steady flow of bugs, upgrades, dropped support and other frustrations. After Windows XP, people were reluctant to move to anything new. And after Vista, people were down-right pissed off. Windows 7 is livable but Microsoft had to compete with tablets so they are forcing Windows 8.x on everyone and even the device makers are getting pretty bothered.

    With all the comings and goings of social networking services, people are also begi

    • I have a different view of facebook. It's a place where I can reconnect or even stay in contact with people I've met over the years. I think that after linkedin it's one of the best networking tools out there. For another product to come and replace this one it would have to be seamless from the user's point of view.

  • As much as I do wish this would be the case, I don't think it's going to happen.
    On the other hand, ten years ago I thought myspace would be around forever, and we all know how that turned out.
  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:37PM (#46049891)

    I'm glad to hear that vanity, gossip, and pursuit of social status are fads that will eventually go away like skinny jeans.

  • by bloggerhater ( 2439270 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:38PM (#46049905)

    Except that the vast majority of Facebook's traffic never passes through Google...

  • Not a great study (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maestro485 ( 1166937 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:39PM (#46049919)
    This "study" is mostly bullshit. This article sums it up nicely:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/... [slate.com]
    • This is the sort of study that gives science a bad name. I am beginning to suspect the reason the public doesn't accept scientific facts is that they are constantly exposed to headlines of the sensational (and unsubstantiated) conclusions of charlatans.
  • thousands of Websites rely on the Network That Zuckerberg Built to connect with users, advertise, sell products, and much more.

    I'm pretty sure that will speed its decline. What user wants Facebook to help give advertisements? I dare you to go ask random people on the street about that.

  • What if Facebook is more like stomach bacteria where we evolve to utterly depend on it?

  • You can manage it, but you may never be able to make it fully go away.
  • Although applying the concept is interesting in theory, all trolling aside a foundational difference that makes this comparison nonsense is that *most* human's don't want the virus they contract whereas *most* Facebook users want to participate on Facebook until its usefulness expires. Facebook's usefulness has an indeterminate expiration that is subjective per individual (or group of like-minded individuals) whereas the virus is counter-useful. Now, if they were to apply disease patterns of a virus whose

  • Facebook vs. MySpace (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ffejie ( 779512 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:55PM (#46050171)
    The summary alludes to this, but Facebook has done a much better job integrating into society than MySpace ever did at it's peak. At best, MySpace was a good place to go see about a new band. Facebook has built alliances (either officially, or just by use) with almost every major brand, and every company in the western world. This kind of branding will be held on to by corporations big and small, as they know it's a good way to reach users.

    What we could see happen is that users abandon the service to connect to real people, and only use it to connect to brands, because the brands are demanding it. Over time (several more years) the brands will likely deprioritize their presence on the network, because people don't engage with them the way they used to. Go watch a commercial break on TV right now, I bet that one of the ads uses facebook.com/brandname as their website address. How insane is that? Snickers uses facebook.com/snickers instead of Snickers.com! Why would you do this? Facebook limits the opportunities that brands have to engage, and yet brands have played right into it, because the network is so powerful.

    I do believe Facebook will live on as a way to authenticate and connect with other websites. It's a useful way to verify someone's real name, their social connections, and that they are a "good actor." See: many dating websites.
  • not so fast (Score:4, Informative)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:56PM (#46050187) Homepage
    The assumption that Facebook will decline in the medium term is challenged by the examples of other networks which became pervasive enough that they became effectively perpetual (at least until disrupted by outside forces). The telephone network, the Interstate highway system, and the power grid have all held on and show no signs of going away (even as the telephone network merges with the internet). Oh yeah: and the internet.

    As for the trend of a decline in googling for "facebook", that could just as easily reflect the fact that fewer people need to search for it. Either they've bookmarked it, it's their home page, their browser is smart enough to do URL completion, or it's perpetually at the top of their history, so they never hit Google on the way to it.

    Don't get me wrong: Facebook will go away at some point, just like the phone system and Interstates will fade away before humanity does. But projections that it is already in decline (or trending toward that inflection point) may be premature.
  • Social networks have a life cycle. If they become cool, they grow. They grow too big, become uncool, the cool people leave, and they decline. Past top social networks include The Well, AOL, Geocities, and Myspace. Facebook's web traffic peaked in 2012.

    A key problem for Facebook: they don't have a phone. Google has a phone OS, and uses it to lock users in and spy on them. Facebook doesn't have that power.

  • by sribe ( 304414 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:10PM (#46050379)

    Did they really assume that a drop in people searching for Facebook equates to a drop in people using Facebook? Why not just a drop in new users trying to find Facebook???

  • by hackus ( 159037 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:33PM (#46050679) Homepage

    People who make those sorts of comments do not understand what Facebook is.

    To understand that, you have to be aware of who funded Facebook and bankrolled all of it.

    Which of course were various military types.

    Facebook has never made a profit, and probably never will. But it isn't there to make a profit.

    It is there to gather intelligence.

    As long as it serves that purpose, it isn't going anywhere.


  • Decline of Google? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @06:10PM (#46051055) Homepage

    I think that it's at least as likely that this signals a decline of Google instead. When I searched "trends" recently for things like "algebra" and "math help" it seemed liked the searches for even those fairly eternal subjects were trailing off in recent years. Comparing Google to Facebook, it seems that Google's the one that's flailing around more recently, with farts like G+, canceled projects, draconian merging of accounts, etc.

  • by Skynyrd ( 25155 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:48PM (#46052065) Homepage

    I'd like to "like" this story.

  • by hypnosec ( 2231454 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:49PM (#46052071) Journal
  • by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @08:07PM (#46052213) Homepage
    In case someone missed it, FB admitted a month ago that teens are leaving in droves. Their belief however, is those users will come back when they age to re-connect with lost friends and family. Big words from a company that that has yet to exist through even 1 partial generation. My 17 year old daughter says – and I quote – “nobody uses facebook but old people and ghetto kids”. As far as using FB as a login verification, I doubt it. I refuse to use it and won’t post to sites that require FB log in. I detest their cannibalizing everything I do online for marketing and profitability.

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.