Facebook will lose 80 percent of its users by 2017, according to a study by Princeton University researchers.

The study followed assumptions from “Epidemiological modeling of online social network dynamics” by John Cannarella and Joshua A. Spechler.  The premise is that epidemiology models can be applied to social networks.

In other words, Facebook is like a disease.  It is spread through communicative contact – people sign up because their friends have.  People eventually lose interest, which is akin to developing immunity.

Researchers used Google Trends search data to measure the popularity of Facebook over time.  They compared Facebook’s search popularity with another social network that rose to popularity and then subsided – MySpace.  The trends of both can be seen in the graph above.

Although it seems Facebook is due for a fall, it won’t be for a while.  The site had 1.9 billion active users as of September 30, 2013, though it is losing popularity among young people.

The study has not been peer reviewed yet, but Redditors have released criticism.  They say that even at its peak, MySpace was not integrated into mainstream culture as much as Facebook is today.  Furthermore, people can use Facebook to log into other Internet services, which discourages defections.

While it is certainly a bold prediction to say that the service used by 15 percent of the world’s population will fade away by 2017, nothing is ever certain in the constantly evolving world of social media.

About The Author

Aneri Pattani is a Blast correspondent and journalism student at Northeastern University

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