Facebook is still not dying
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 12:49 PM
Another day, another hysterical report on the demise of Facebook.
Today's article on the unavoidable demise of Facebook comes from Time, with a headline announcing that Facebook is about to lose 80% of its users. But if you actually drill down into the cited study, which is being reported just about everywhere, you'll find that this conclusion was reached by modeling the life of Facebook's popularity on the lifespan of infectious diseases:
Disease models can be used to understand the mass adoption and subsequent flight from online social networks, researchers at Princeton’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering say in a study released Jan. 17. The study has not been peer-reviewed. Updating traditional models on disease spread to assume that “recovery” requires contact with a nondiseased member — i.e., a nonuser of Facebook (“recovered” member of the population) — researchers predicted that Facebook would see a rapid decline, causing the site to lose 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.
This study is based on the notion that ideas are spread by networked contagion, in the same way a flu might be - an idea popularized by Harvard Medical School professor Nicholas Christakis.
Regardless of how true that may be, a research firm released a study yesterday that said that even though Facebook saw a 3% decline in users last year, 83% of all web users in the world have Facebook accounts, and 55% of them use the service regularly. That's 1.19 billion users. Instagram, now owned by Facebook, saw a 25% increase in its user base last year.
I get that it taps into something - maybe schadenfreude, maybe fear of institutions we rely upon disappearing - to constantly worry at the death of Facebook. But the social network remains the second biggest website in the world. As such, I'll borrow a paragraph from PJ's article on the last series of stories on the end of Facebook:
It’s exciting to imagine life without Facebook, and saying that anything will die is, in the long run, a safe bet. But if, as it seems, 2014 will be the year we read a never-ending parade of stories about the Death of Facebook, you can probably safely ignore them. The first sign that Facebook’s actually in trouble will be when it’s no longer popular enough to earn clickbait pieces about its imminent death.