February 4, 2014
New Model Suggests Facebook Will Not Follow In MySpace’s Footsteps
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Facebook users can breathe easy, because a new study indicates the fear that the world’s largest social network will die out in three years is unfounded.In January, Princeton University researchers reported that Facebook could lose as much as 80 percent of its users by 2017. The researchers used MySpace as a model, and applied Zuckerberg's franchise to it, showing how the trendy social network’s popularity would soon fall from its throne.
However, a Carnegie Mellon University research created his own model that predicts the future and viability of Facebook, as well as many other membership-based websites.
In the latest study, the researcher created a model that attempts to replicate the dynamics of these sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. They applied the model to six years of user statistics for 22 membership-based sites and found that it was able to reliably predict which sites will be sustainable for the foreseeable future.
Bruno Ribeiro, a post-doctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon's Computer Science Department who designed the study, said his model could help investors understand which sites are sustainable and which are passing fads. According to this model, some of the more sustainable sites include the Huffington Post news site, the Ashley Madison dating site and The Blaze commentary site. Sites that could be following in MySpace's footsteps in the next few years include Flixster.com, OccupyWallSt.org and TeaPartyPatriots.org.
Unlike the model used by Princeton researchers, Ribeiro’s model accounts for the tendency of active members to become inactive, the influence that active members can have in encouraging friends to join, and the role of marketing and media campaigns convincing people to join. He said he was inspired to create this model due to what the late Nobel laureate Herbert Simon called "the marketplace of attention."
"A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it," Simon, a Carnegie Mellon professor who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in economics, said.
Ribeiro tested his model by applying it to successful and unsuccessful sites. He used six years of daily number of active users (DAU) data obtained for 22 sites from Alexa, a Web analytics company.
"This study couldn't have been done even two years ago," he said in a statement, "because data of this quality and breadth simply didn't exist."
His model was able to successfully deduce which existing sites grew primarily by word of mouth, like Facebook and LinkedIn, and those that were powered by media and marketing, such as The Blaze and OccupyWallSt. Ribeiro predicts that this model means sites are likely to increase behaviors like sending daily emails about a friends’ activities.
"If this model is correct, social network sites will try to make your friends' lives seem more interesting and your feedback on their posts more urgent," Ribeiro said. “From the model's perspective it is beneficial for companies to be encouraging this type of behavior.”