Social notworking site Facebook has similarities with an infectious disease and is likely to die off in exactly the same way.
Tesearchers at Princeton have devised a model that predicts Facebook will lose 80 percent of its users by 2017 by drawing similarities between Facebook's rapid adoption and the proliferation of an infectious disease.
John Cannarella and Joshua A. Spechler wrote in an article recently posted to the preprint database arXiv that ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out.
Epidemiological models can be used to explain user adoption and abandonment of online social networks, "where adoption is analogous to infection and abandonment is analogous to recovery."
They based their models on data that reflect the number of times "Facebook" has been typed into Google as a search term.
Google Trends reveals that these weekly "search queues" reached a peak in December of 2012, and have since begun to level off.
If you put these figures into a modified SIR model for the spread of infectious disease you get a nice chart which suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 per cent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.
The researchers tested their model by comparing the same sort of curve against data compiled for the failed social notworking site MySpace and found there as nearly a perfect match.
"It is reasonable to assume that Facebook's position at the crest of the recent wave of social-media dependence has raised it above the plane on which the infectious-disease equivalence holds true. That's not to say Facebook won't die out, or be supplanted by some other, even more immense online social network, it's just to say that it probably won't play out in the way these models are predicting. In Facebook, we have ourselves a plague the likes of which the world has never known," the report said.
On that basis, Facebook's only chance is to mutate into something else and then it can carry on giving people a nasty rash.