The internet has seized with glee on a Princeton research paper that suggests Facebook will be a virtually abandoned, tumbleweed-riddled corner of the web by 2017, when the social network's "outbreak" will have run its course.
Princeton PhD students Joshua Spechler and Johan Cannarella used epidemiological modelling, traditionally employed to track the growth patterns of infectious diseases, to predict Facebook's imminent demise, citing the way that MySpace peaked in 2008 and then rapidly disappeared in three years.
According to the students' paper, Facebook is "just beginning to show the onset of an abandonment phase", after reaching its popularity peak in 2012, which will lead to it losing 80 per cent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.
The paper, which has yet to be peer-reviewed and is available here (PDF), uses Google search query data to determine popularity and shows a downward trend in search frequency from last year.
Whether or not the paper stands up to academic scrutiny remains to be seen, but the study has certainly stirred up some mild controversy and few belly laughs from the gallery.
Tech analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group gave MarketWatch a somewhat tongue-in-cheek comment on the research.
"I'm sure [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg loves being compared to Typhoid Mary," he joked.
“If the disease model holds, it suggests that Facebook will need to evolve/mutate in order to begin another curve or it will die out. It has to overcome the immunisation cycle,” he added. ®