January 24, 2014
Will Facebook Suffer Major Loss Of Users In The Coming Years?
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Researchers used MySpace as its social network model for the study, saying the ancient site is a useful case study for model validation because it represents one of the largest social networks in history to exhibit the full life cycle, from rise to fall.
The team checked MySpace’s history by using publicly available Google data, which shows all of MySpace’s hot and cold years, from 2004 to 2011. After validating their model with MySpace, they applied it to the Google data for Facebook.
MySpace was founded in 2003 and it reached its peak in 2008 with 75.9 million unique monthly visits in the US before decaying in 2011. The company was bought by News Corp for $580 million in 2005, but was sold six years later for just $35 million.
“The dynamics governing the rapid rises and falls of OSNs (online social networks) are therefore not only of academic interest, but also of financial interest to incumbent and emerging OSN providers and their stakeholders,” the team wrote in the report. “MySpace also has the added advantage of having its entire lifespan occur within the range of search query data available from Google Trends, which is only available after January 2004.”
The team said that when applying the model to Facebook, it showed a high quality fit for the available search query data over the time period of January 2004 to the last reported data point at the time.
“Facebook presents an interesting case study as it is the largest OSN in history. Moreover, the search query data suggests that Facebook has already reached the peak of its popularity and has entered a decline phase, as evidenced by the downward trend in search frequency after 2012,” the team wrote in the report. “The presence of a year-long decline portion of the curve allows for determination of best fit R0 and ν parameters, both of which are sensitive to the decline dynamics.”
The researchers said that given the early stage of Facebook’s decline, the best fit model can be used not only to provide an explanation of the observed curve, but also to forecast how the social network will decline in the future. The team said that Facebook will undergo a 20 percent drop in numbers by December 2014. They used this 20 percent decline as an arbitrary definition for end of life, leading to the assumption that Facebook’s population will shrink 8 percent by 2017.
“Extrapolating the best fit model into the future predicts a rapid decline in Facebook activity in the next few years,” the team wrote.
Only time will tell whether or not the authors predictions come true, but the bigger question could be what happens to the online activity of the hundreds of millions of people who would abandon their Facebook post.