back to article Facebook will LOSE 80% of its users by 2017 – epidemiological study

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, …


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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Who wants a share, now?

    Although the means of arriving at the conclusion that Facebook is about to become TitsUp has so many holes in its logic that it's hard to see the connections for all the empty assumptions between them. However if there is any substance to this, then it does look like the timing of the IPO was less than a coincidence.

    1. Rob

      Re: Who wants a share, now?

      What you mean someone invented the cure before they released the disease.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You want to see Facebook lose members by the score there is a simple solution. Insist of friending your children on there, they will soon look for alternatives.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If

        Yeah, they migrate to skype and oovoo and a couple of other platforms.

        I've haven't seen so many teenagers' bedrooms since I was one.

        1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

          Re: If

          Go on... I bet you can't remember a single thing from when you were one. What would a baby be doing in lots of teenager's bedrooms anyway?

        2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          What wall paper did you like most?

          When you were a bedroom.

          Sorry about that, ladies and gentlemen.






  2. monkeyfish

    ...downward trend in search frequency from last year...

    Um, are people still using google search to get to facebook? Surely most frequent users would have either a) made a bookmark by now, b) use the mobile app, or c) have it set to their homepage?

    Edit: Or at least start typing it in the browser and have it take you strait there automatically?

    1. Shrimpling

      You would be surprised how many non-tech literate people go to facebook by double clicking the big blue "e" then typing facebook into the search box that opens on their homepage.

      They do this because the first person who showed them the internet showed them this way and they never learnt any better.

      1. David Webb

        When one of the top search terms in Google is "Google" you know that people won't directly type in "Facebook".

        1. Eddy Ito

          Given how many modern browsers just have a single bar or the address bar does searches as well it comes down to what is the default search engine set to. I guess it's easier to do the search than automatically assuming the user wants the '.com' added to the tail since it's unlikely they know the desired TLD and if they do they likely type it anyway.

        2. Simon Harris

          'When one of the top search terms in Google is "Google" '

          Doesn't that break the internet?

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

        4. Smarty Pants

          I thought if you googled 'google' the internet broke

          1. Tom 13

            Nah, that just gets you a GooglePlex

            and a possible audit from the MPAA to ensure you are paying them proper royalties.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        They do this because the first person who showed them the internet showed them this way and they never learnt any better.

        I've shown several people what the address bar is, how to type into it, and how to bookmark the pages they go to all the time. I can only think of one of those people who has any bookmarks saved in their browser...

        Google have only built the staggering number of data centres they have because every few months their search supercomputer becomes self aware and gets incredibly pissed off with all the idiots asking it where they can find, goes beserk and decides to destroy the human race. So Google have to disconect it and build another datacentre and start the process all over again, because they don't know if the old one is safe to re-use.

        Eventually this will end with the whole world being covered in useless Google datacentres which are too hideously dangerous to re-use, the death of the human race at the hands of our computer overlords, or users like my Mum being educated into using the address bar and bookmarks.

        I'm betting on the end of the human race...

        1. Mike Flugennock

          join the club...

          "I've shown several people what the address bar is, how to type into it, and how to bookmark the pages they go to all the time. I can only think of one of those people who has any bookmarks saved in their browser..."

          My wife insists on typing the name of a site she wants to visit into a Google search box. Every time I suggest that she could make an educated guess by typing straight into the Firefox address bar -- or simply typing the URL into the address bar if she knows it -- she has a massive meltdown.

          I gave up long ago.

          1. ItsNotMe

            Re: join the club...

            @Mike Flugennock...are we married to the same woman?

            My wife insists on typing the name of a site she wants to visit into a Google search box. Every time I suggest that she could make an educated guess by typing straight into the Firefox address bar -- or simply typing the URL into the address bar if she knows it -- she has a massive meltdown.

            I gave up long ago.

            I feel your pain. And the beer...because this has caused me to imbibe in many as a result.

            1. Dick Emery

              Re: join the club...

              It's because the cursor automatically defaults to the Google page search box instead of the URL. I blame the browsers for allowing it to steal focus at startup.

          2. Lamont Cranston

            Re: join the club...

            In defence of various people's wives, letting Google find the page you want might well be a safer option than typing in what you think the URL might be - probably quite a high chance of landing on some impostor site, otherwise (pretty sure that "" lands you somewhere unsavoury, for example).. Google's naggy little spell checker ("did you mean...?") has its uses!

        2. Rob 5

          @ I ain't Spartacus

          Very nicely done, Sir! Have another pint.

        3. Horned-Devil

          @ I ain't Spartacus

          Well done sir! I am going to be re-using this comment frequently over the next few months - where should I be sending royalties - I'm assuming not Thrace from the moniker?

          Another pint from me!

        4. Marcelo Rodrigues

          42 is the magic number

          -> I ain't Spartacus

          I would upvote you - but the counter is at 42! I can't bring myself to mess with this! :D

        5. Mer Ner

          @ I ain't Spartacus

          So this is the back story behind Portal and GLaDOS! I thought that G initial was a bit familiar!

      3. VinceH

        "You would be surprised how many non-tech literate people go to facebook by double clicking the big blue "e" then typing facebook into the search box that opens on their homepage."

        For FaecesBook read any website they go to regularly, including their bank or credit card providers website.

        1. Professor Clifton Shallot

          "For FaecesBook read any website they go to regularly, including their bank or credit card providers website."

          As long as Google can be trusted to return good results this might be safer than risking a typo or using a shortcut that may no longer be valid, I suppose.

          1. Lost in Cyberspace


            Provided it is google and not mywebsearch, searchdial, conduit, or even Ask or some ISP butchered version of Google.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. ravenviz

        They do this because the first person who showed them the internet showed them this way and they never learnt any better

        A 30-plus friend of mine only discovered copy-and-paste quite recently, she just used to type out what she wanted to quote. If you haven't been shown then you wouldn't know!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Seriously? that is something your taught in school surely? i'm 30+ and was taught that in school, even when my IT teacher was seriously incompetent...

          1. Tom 13

            Re: Seriously?

            When I was in school, cut and paste meant getting out the scissors, cutting something out from a piece of paper (possibly a magazine) and then using the Elmer's to paste it onto another piece of paper or poster board.

            Even when we did get computers, for the most part you still couldn't cut and paste, because everything was from a command prompt.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Like they were my words

      I had the same thoughts when I read the article. I was going to post it until I read your post

      +1 for ya, and a pint! It’s almost Friday!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Like they were my words

        Middle mouse button use in search.

        I see many inteligent people who could use a Gantt chart go to google, type a term, click the first link, wait for it to load read a bit , click back, click the next link wait for it to load read a bit click back.

        FFS! seriously.

        Type a search term.

        see more than one link that looks promising? middle mouse button that while you keep assesing the other links.

        Repeat until you have a few loading then go to the first new tab opened, it will have loaded by now.

        Read in smart business manner close if not required then the next etc.

        We have multicore processors but use single thread browsing.

        Show them, please show them.

    3. Buzzword

      They're all on mobile

      More and more people are accessing Facebook via their mobile app, not via the desktop, so their accesses wouldn't show up in Google's logs.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: They're all on mobile

        Yeah, I have a mobile with a specially dedicated "Facebook" key on it... WHY?

        I don't even have a data plan.

  3. Caff

    data collection

    If there are using google search results to collect their data could it indicate instead that facebook is replacing google as a means for people to find things?

  4. Khaptain Silver badge

    Sounds about right

    Facebook is really no different to Myspace, Yahoo, Compuserve etc they belong to group of non essential things that make up the Interwebs....

    1. adnim

      Re: Sounds about right

      unfortunately many people are more interested in distraction, irrelevance and entertainment than anything remotely educational, thought provoking (as in requiring one to think) or indeed essential.

      Life can be a bitch especially if one sucks at living it. And regrettably many do. Hence the profusion of lolcatz, people falling over videos and Farcebook, which merely serve as an escape from their otherwise humdrum? pointless? existence.

      All of this is relative of course, I am just a boring old fart that reads nothing but technical stuff on line in hopes of advancing and keeping my ageing mind active. I am sure that there are many Farcebook devotees that would see my life and lifestyle as pointless and indeed awfully boring. I shrug at this, I feel positive about my life and I feel that the very few friends, as in people I know, love and trust, love me too. And this makes me feel special and privileged. No doubt the Farcebook devotee feels the same way too, only difference being most of their friends are strangers. It's all relative.

      I do feel sad that Farcebook has corrupted the word friend.

      It don't need to be Friday for glass of wine. Beer icon 'cos there is no Shiraz icon.

      Cheers to you all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds about right

        I hate to break it to you, but that's genetic. Voracious reading won't help you if you have defective genes.

      2. wikkity

        Re: Sounds about right

        > many people are more interested in distraction, irrelevance and entertainment

        Obviously, otherwise we wouldn't be reading el reg.

  5. bill 36
    Big Brother

    i doubt it

    Many people i know are addicted to it so unless there is a discovery like penicillin, there is no cure.

    I think they will probably shoot themselves in the foot eventually which will prompt a mass exodus.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Probably more a critical mass thing.

      As the friends you follow stop posting updates and either move to the next big thing (no idea what it will be) or just go back to Real Life then so your need to check FB for updates every 60 seconds drops off and eventually you don't bother checking in or updating yourself, as either you've moved on or lost interest.

      Which means the people following you stop checking so often and so on...

      There is also the case for many of the "Yoof" that if your parents are on FB its no longer cool any longer and you'll move on...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >There is also the case for many of the "Yoof" that if your parents are on FB its no longer cool any longer and you'll move on...

        Which could - long term - be its saving.

        Yoof are a good market, but they don't buy many white-goods/cars/mortgages.

        At the moment magazine and TV ads are still the best way to reach these people, if Facebook reaches critical mass in the 30-40 somethings rather than Yoof and hipsters they could own a very profitable and much less fickle market.

        1. monkeyfish

          if Facebook reaches critical mass in the 30-40 somethings

          If? They already have the critical mass don't they? I'm a 30-something, and so are all (most of) my friends. I've never seen an advert on there that I'd want to click though, so for all the privacy mongering they do, they haven't actually managed to use it properly yet. All I get is hot-young-singles-in-your-area ads, even though I told them I married already. Unless they took that as an indication that I'd like a hot young single in my area, who knows?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            @monkeyfish: May I humbly suggest that gold badge members of el-reg are not the typical sheep audience that advertisers dream of.

          2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

            All I get is hot-young-singles-in-your-area

            All I get is ads for feckunding old ladies.

            How do they know how old we are?

            I almost never use faecebook. And only then to make a commnet on a blog that isn't on faecebook as far as I know.

            If they threw me the occasional young one, I wouldn't feel so bloody old! (I might even be tempted.)

          3. Tom 13

            Re: All I get is hot-young-singles-in-your-area ads

            FB haven't tweaked their filters correctly yet. I got the same ads and I'm a fair bit older than you. Haven't been on it in months. I was only really on it for the Zynga games and they became unplayable; or more precisely, they became more tedious work than real work.

    2. Eddy Ito

      Re: i doubt it

      I don't know. I'm torn between agreeing with the cure being short attention spans or the thought of the Zuckster putting his foot in his mouth after he shoots it. Granted I'm tempted to pay to watch the latter.

  6. Craig McGill 1

    It's true but the time is probably off

    I think given that the older generations take longer to come off platforms that the younger crowd who are always looking for novelty, the theory is probably right but I would say it will be post 2020 before it really drops off. I think you'll see a longer fade-off of users. Unless they do some great privacy cock-up and they've survived most of them so far.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: It's true but the time is probably off

      a)You need something to move TO

      b)Since when do we believe such theories?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It's true but the time is probably off

        >a)You need something to move TO

        Not a difficult market to enter, a kid in a Harvard dorm room could manage it.

        >b)Since when do we believe such theories?

        When do we believe epidemiological models of disease spread and network effects?

        Since they correctly started predicting diseases, growth in traffic, best places to build a mall, etc etc

      2. M Gale

        Re: It's true but the time is probably off

        a)You need something to move TO

        It's a bit geeky, but Retroshare is showing some promise. Decentralised too.

        Chat, forums, mail and file sharing with a Web Of Trust network topology. Easy to set up, easy to use, and speedy enough to not get bored waiting for the latest lolcat picture to load. All it needs is a profile page and a wall that people can scrawl on, and you're done.

        Of course, it's more for keeping in touch with your friends rather than keeping in touch with your "friends", so maybe not. But hey, maybe!

        1. MrXavia
          Thumb Up

          Re: Retroshare

          Looks interesting, i've been looking for something to try and shift my friends and family onto away from facebook....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...Facebook will need to evolve/mutate in order to begin another curve ..."

    Perhaps so.

    But a word of advice : features like the new and thoroughly not wanted 'Trending' section are not beneficial mutations.

  8. bigtimehustler

    Why on earth would it be like a virus outbreak? A virus outbreak falls off because everyone has had it and so are then immune or dead. I do not believe you become immune to facebook or die off from using it too much. What utter nonsense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      suggest you read about herd immunity ....

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: @bigtimehustler

        > Yoof

        > Not like a herd

        1. Tromos

          Re: Yoof

          Not like a herd.

          Indeed, more like a flock.

      2. bigtimehustler

        Re: @bigtimehustler

        Not really worth it, reality is rarely born out of it. The theory may well be sound, but it assumes facebook is a static constant, no consideration given to the unknowns that facebook may choose to do on the way.

        1. suspicious-mind

          Re: @bigtimehustler

          "assumes facebook is a static constant, no consideration given to the unknowns that facebook may choose to do on the way."

          ... and that's only the known unknowns.

    2. suspicious-mind

      "Why on earth would it be like a virus outbreak? A virus outbreak falls off because everyone has had it and so are then immune or dead. I do not believe you become immune to facebook or die off from using it too much. What utter nonsense."

      Such a convincing argument, basing diagnosis of "utter nonsense" on personal belief.

      Most people I know are well on the way to Facebook immunity, only suffering from an occasional minor flare-up now, instead of a persistent raging fever.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wishful thinking perhaps?

    Probably but personally, the sooner it and Twatter bite the dust the better.

    Yours grumpy old fart who canna be bothered to speak to anyone unless they can see them face to face.

    Three days and counting till rabbie's party.

    1. monkeyfish

      Re: Wishful thinking perhaps?

      Sorry, so who are you talking to now? Are we non-existant or in front of you?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wishful thinking perhaps?

      While Twitter may be misused, it does have its purposes, its a good replacement for RSS feeds, it is a place where news can be disseminated easily...

      The problem is its used for idiotic things like updating people on what you had for breakfast and giving a voice to idiots of which there are many....

      1. Mike Flugennock

        Re: Wishful thinking perhaps?

        "While Twitter may be misused, it does have its purposes, its a good replacement for RSS feeds, it is a place where news can be disseminated easily..."

        Quite agree with that. I have accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, and use Twitter far more often to check out the latest news; on the other hand, I hardly ever visit Facebook, and probably spend about 10 minutes on it at a stretch, because it's just too big a pain in the ass.

        The secret to getting the most out of Twitter, I've found, is to restrict who you follow -- or who follows you -- to people or orgs who are posting stuff that's actually of interest and real use to you. I've been able to largely avoid bullshit like fotos of people's lunches this way.

        1. suspicious-mind

          Re: Wishful thinking perhaps?

          "I hardly ever visit Facebook, and probably spend about 10 minutes on it at a stretch, because it's just too big a pain in the ass."

          May I politely request you stop mistreating your donkey and wear more resiliant trousers (US: "pants").

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it's catchy

    there've been fads before,only in the internet "age" they are in and out that much faster. I'm just about to say "the sooner the better" (FB, good riddance, etc.), but then, what if the carriers catch something even worse than the FB instead? Yeah, granted, FB is pretty much rock bottom, but then, human imagination knows no boundaries. Perhaps a reincarnation of that walking penis virtual world that was so now a few years back?

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: it's catchy

      "FB is pretty much rock bottom, but then, human imagination knows no boundaries"

      True enough. Nobody ever went bankrupt because they UNDERestimated public taste

  11. Colin Millar

    Do they not have entrance exams for Princeton?

    There is no reason to believe that epidemiological models apply despite the desperate sounding crap supposed to justify it - the reference to MySpace is so poorly thought out it makes me wonder if you need to do abstract thought to get into Princeton these days - if you think about it for more than a knee-jerk second MySpace cannot be looked at as a precedent for a methodology analysing the future success or otherwise of Facebook.

    "The precedent for applying epidemiological models to non-disease applications has previously been set by research focused on modeling the spread of less-tangible applications such as ideas"

    That's it - something as massive as the dissemination of ideas has a superficial resemblance to some epidemiological models therefore it applies to FaceBook which is not an idea but an internet service with an actively changing relationship with its clients. Oh - and apparently when no-one is actively espousing an idea it is because they lost interest in it (after all what else could have happened to an idea) which is the equivalent of becoming immune to the idea.

    If all that is not enough they then admit that its all based on a Google mashup anyway.

    FaceBook may well be getting stale in a digital world moving at a tremendous pace and personally I don't think they would be any great loss. But this paper is just trolling bollocks.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Trolls from Princeton?

      Perhaps they have explained the demise of Usenet?

      If so you can make a comparison to what has ahppened there with what they came up with.

    2. suspicious-mind

      Re: Do they not have entrance exams for Princeton?

      "There is no reason to believe that epidemiological models apply despite the desperate sounding crap supposed to justify it"

      But every reason to believe that the underlying mathematics of constrained populations whose life is a sum of different negative and positive exponential contributors applies, i.e. next generation growth / shrinkage dependent on population size of current generation.

      And epedmiological models, like models of many other populations, including Facebookians, apply similar underlying mathematics very effectively, as it happens.

  12. James O'Shea

    I really doubt it

    Unless they run out of complete and utter morons, Arsebook will live.

    Example of how _stupid_ some Arsebook users are: one of my cousins has had a Gmail account since about 3 months after they first became available. A moron who wanted to start an Arsebook account set up a Gmail account one digit off his, and linked said account to his Arsebook account. Except that he didn't; he linked my cousin's account instead. So my cousin woke up one Sunday morning to find a flood of Arsebook crap filling his inbox. He went to the Arsebook account in question, had it send in a password change request to the linked email (his!) and changed the password, posted a request for the moron to remove my cousin's email from his Arsebook, and logged out. The moron also had his phone linked to the account, and within a half hour had changed the password back (incidentally, do you know just how easy it is to change the password on an Arsebook account? There's absolutely zero security...) and the Arsebook update flood continued. (Apparently the moron was a 'consultant' at Port Harcourt in Nigeria and had a truly incredible number of 'friends', and all of them wanted to 'friend' his Arsebook account. And my cousin got mail each time one tried. And as the moron wasn't seeing the 'friend' requests unless he was logged in 'cause they were all going to my cousin's email not his, some of the 'friends' were making multiple requests. And then there was the fact that a lot of them seemed to be way-out-over-the-edge PETA types, and posted the silliest crap...) My cousin got tired of it, and after a week of bombardment went back in by changing the password again, left another little note, and this time 'deactivated' the account. The moron has either deleted the link to my cousin's account or hasn't figured out how to get back in to Arsebook, as the bombardment has ceased. Good thing, as next time my cousin was going to go nuclear on the moron. Especially as the little note which he'd left on the Arsebook account the first time had been deleted. Yes, the moron saw it, knew he was irritating someone else, and didn't give a damn. I'm sure that he cares now... Moron.

  13. JLV

    Applying models...

    So, you have a well-known mathematical model that works very well on one domain and has been used on others.

    Then you claim that it fits yet another domain. And you use a variable, the Google search, that looks somewhat credible. No worries, the math looks very good. And your research paper is sure to trend!

    Reminds me of the bankers during the 2008 meltdown that were flabbergasted that their CDO risk assessment spreadsheets were showing that real-world conditions were 25 standard deviations off from their mathematically-correct predictions.

    My guess: Facebook is a network-effect case, where value goes up with the number of users. Unless they screw up big time or something radically different comes along, they'll probably be safe for a while. That's why they need to keep their eyes on mobile. Unlike Myspace vs. Facebook, the ground has largely been staked already so there is no massive amount of people without social network affiliation to boost your numbers. Twitter? Complementary.

    I'll grant that we could see a drop of FB visits per user, but I rather doubt it will mean large scale abandonment. Just less use and I even doubt that.

    10 years from now? Who knows. 2017? I'll take their bet.

    For those, like me, who don't like/use FB much, a lot of what we object to would end up being exactly the same with their replacement. Ads? Check. "Privacy"? Check. Compulsive posting of life's pedestrian moments? Check. Friend count fixation? Check. Plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Applying models...

      Yes, there is a network-effect case. But there is also a viral effect case, similar to usenet. The more the spammers fill it up, and the harder it becomes to deter the spammers the more likely users are to move along. The problem for the corp behind FB is that those spammers are their cash flow, so if they can balance it, they can practically print money. But if they screw it up, the whole thing dies.

      I'd ballpark it at 65-35 toward network effect.

  14. Elmer Phud

    The next Twitter

    and when the next wonderthing appears Twitter will be the target of scorn instead -- there are still people trying to get me interested in Google+ ffs.

  15. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

    So its a good news day then.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure this will turn out to be true

    I work in education and facebook is old hat now as far as students are concerned. Twitter is now the dominant social network.

    Even my social circles are moving off Facebook towards twitter. All i use Facebook for now is for private messaging.. It has much better in to various phone and tablet platforms compared with whatsap, bbm, etc

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: I'm sure this will turn out to be true

      "...All i use Facebook for now is for private messaging..."

      You use Facebook for private messaging? Not email?

      Forgive my bluntness, but ARE YOU FRIGGIN' NUTS?

      1. Tom 13
        Black Helicopters


        Even email isn't really private messaging.

        Neither is the phone network.

        If you really want private messaging, it's back to the cloak and dagger stuff.

        1. suspicious-mind

          Re: ARE YOU FRIGGIN' NUTS?

          "Even email isn't really private messaging."

          Yes, but there's pretend private - the NSA gets to read it and store it, but isn't too bothered and doesn't tell all your friends. And there there's stick it on a wall and imagine no one looks private - the sort Facebook users mostly rely on.

          Saying that having recently heard about an aspect of someone's life which they have steered away from in conversation but which someone else just happened to notice for the world to read on their Facebook page.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is people use facebook to communicate now... as much as I TRY to get people to call me or SMS me, some members of my family are only able to communicate through facebook, and i am not quite ready to cut off all links to them yet...

    Really there is a need for a privacy loving alternative to facebook, allowing sharing if you really want to but that allows you to just talk to your friends when you want to.. I thought Google+ would allow this, how wrong I was... Real names, sure I don't mind you having it but really you want to use it as the visible name? you real arse Google+... yet if I want to back up my contacts easily I need a google account...

  18. dssf

    Now Trending...

    "Fb user log-ins today, vs yesterday; actuals vs our daily predictions, vs external predictions..."

    I bet THAT won't be on fb's fb home page...

  19. Deadlock Victim

    Really what the data means

    Is that people are using Bing.

  20. btrower

    Facebook is plenty strong

    Facebook has messed up, IMO, plenty of stuff. However, its grasp on how to build a social network is demonstrably good. They do not have any realistic competitor in a space that is clearly important enough to engage a significant percentage of the world's population.

    The inability of the mighty Google with its massive resources to make a dent should give you some indication of the resilience of Facebook.

    Twitter is not a one-to-one competitor that worries Facebook. If they were, Facebook could easily mount a similar platform and crush them.

    Facebook is where it is because of particular network effects that do not apply the same way elsewhere. The network effects in play with Facebook are exceedingly strong.

    Facebook has built out an enormous infrastructure that allows them to not only service the current demands of Facebook users but future demands of those users and other users besides. Should they decide to mount a competitor to Twitter, Vine, SnapChat, Pinterest, Tumblr or whatever, they can do so almost overnight.

    Given Facebook's resources they should, if they don't have one already, have a 'skunkworks' where they build and test competitors to all those things.

    Facebook's big opportunity, which they have not capitalized on yet, is to refine their marketing apparatus such that people are only presented with advertisements for stuff they would be in the market for anyway, to police offers to make sure they are good ones and not a waste of their user's time and to put in place a payment and delivery infrastructure similar to Amazon so that, for instance, around dinner time, someone who is likely to order a Pizza anyway is presented with a good offer for one for delivery and can order it with a couple of clicks.

    Facebook needed network growth more than anything else, so they played fast and loose with privacy and data. They are now reaching a point where they should be putting together a model that entirely locks down privacy and data such that except for possibly public postings of pictures, nobody including Facebook themselves, can gain access to private data.

    With the correct privacy controls in place, Facebook can attract back followers for whom privacy is an issue. They can create mechanisms that would allow 'cliques' to erect their own barriers and admit their own members, etc.

    The network with the critical mass is the only asset that matters. Everything else can be done once you have that. Competing against the network with the critical mass is virtually impossible, no matter the resources you bring to bear. As of now, Facebook owns that network and the only way they will lose it is if they shoot themselves in the foot -- repeatedly. They have not done so yet and appear to be in no danger of doing so any time soon.

    Back in 2012, Forbes published an article saying that Facebook (around its IPO) was *no way* worth $75 billion. I wrote an article in response saying that if I had the $75 billion I would put it down in a heartbeat. Had I been allowed the opportunity, that would be worth nearly twice that today. Not a bad return on such an enormous amount of capital. Facebook is valued around $130B+ right now and I still think it will increase in value over the next few years. The network phenomenon that they have in play is quite unlike anything we have seen before.

    1. Tank boy

      Re: Facebook is plenty strong

      I agree, the rumors of Facebook's death are highly exaggerated. Are people leaving because of privacy concerns, yes. Are teens going to other social media, again yes. There's always going to be people that tire of something, but facebook if it can make a few tweaks, will still continue on, and not become the next myspace.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    users will still be there, perhaps less new ones (each teen net generation wanting something different and cool)

    frequency of use however will be less

    fb needs to be more of a social media group - with multiple brands and different features.

    it doesn;t have to be good - or even innovative - just perceived as different to what ur dad uses.

  22. Kaltern

    Sadly, while business and suchlike use Facebook to 'connect with their customers', there will always BE Facebook. Unlike Myspace, bebo et al, businesses have sadly woken up to the fact that the interweb is one vast advertising free-for-all full of potential moneyspenders, and thus is the perfect place to 'reach out' to their 'important' customers.

    It's the same reason Twitter will never die, not when virtually ever TV program, advert, celeb, newspaper and well, pretty much anything has a hashtag. Somehow by putting a # in front of a word, name or unintelligible phrase makes it important. #whocareswhatyouhadforbreakfast

  23. Number6

    Alienating Users

    As Facebook try to extract revenue from the users, they'll gradually annoy more and more of them, then someone will start something new and clean and people will decamp in droves and it will implode. And so the cycle begins again.

    We can't get rid of Google because in the limit, we don't interact directly with it, the business end is between Google and all the websites out there that install the Google Analytics and advertising packages. I block them on principle, but you can be sure that if everyone started doing it, Google would find another way. With Facebook, their model relies on the users connecting to their site, so until/unless they can evolve their business model, they're vulnerable if they manage to annoy too many people. They're already walking the line with businesses and the fact that fans of business pages don't all get to see updates unless the business coughs up lots of cash. As they disrupt the newsfeed of users (how hard is it to have an option to display everything in chronological order?) with their fancy and useless attempts to guess what we want to see, they're going to irritate more of us.

    There's a reason why Fluff Busting Purity and SocialFixer are popular amongst users and hated by Facebook.

  24. Number6

    Usenet FTW

    None of this web-based stuff is a patch on Usenet for public discussion. Proper threading of discussions, flame wars, killfiles, spam, it had (still has) the lot. RSS is a sort of halfway house, but not as good. Of course, it's useless to advertisers and the binary groups pretty much killed off most of the servers, but what's left is still useful and a lot quieter than it used to be.

  25. Smarty Pants

    Most people I know are moving away from facebook, all it takes is 1 person to go onto a new and 'better' social network, and then a couple follow them (as well as using facebook), then a few more till eventually all new contacts are on the new site only and facebook is relegated to dealing with those friends who won't move, till they drop off your radar as you so infrequently use facebook

  26. BigAndos

    The thing with Facebook is that it has snared a lot of people who aren't technically savvy and who have never had any kind of online profile before. It is also very easy to use. Twitter is ok for quickly sharing status updates and pictures but that is it. Facebook lets you create albums, organise events and effectively create impromptu chat rooms. Sure, the tech savvy will likely get bored and move on - or many never even signed up.

    But my aunty, for example, will form part of a large and very sticky audience for facebook. All her friends are on there and she can play farmville. Why would she desert FB?

  27. Faye B

    So long and thanks for all the fish

    I have noticed that the frequency of posting has slowed down considerably over the last few years. And most of the posts are just shares of other people's postings. There is little social interaction going on now. I guess Twitter has soaked up that form of commentary. So I can easily see FB sinking into the mud of internet history as it falls out of fashion.

  28. JamesSmith

    They will never lose me

    I was never stupid or desperate enough to join B.

  29. @Clwydian


    Well do you remember when texts were indispensible?

    Email bulletin boards and list servers?

    Surely the world and its uncle access FB from their phone for now?

    As one cohort find FB 'so last year' another will discover it. It will be like BBC radio 2.... nobody listens but they like it when they do

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another one bites the dust...

    Remember when MySpace was the hottest thing around? Talk about the abandoned amusement park of the internet.

    Failure to innovate features that users want will be their downfall. It's no difference to the TV business - advertisers are the customers, but the business relies on having viewers. TV networks don't create content for their customers, they create it for their viewers.

    When was the last time FaceBook did something useful for the users that wasn't some creepy exercise for their customers to exploit?

  31. suspicious-mind

    Facebook users where I work have switched in the last 3-4 years from accessing it many times a day to accessing it every week or two, when bored, just in case there's some gossip about someone they used to work with and aren't really that interested in now.

    Social networking seems to work like the fashion industry, retail therapy or belief in the next version of a piece of hardware or software - a blind and trusting faith that the next one will bring just what is missing from life. After a while wiser ones realise life doesn't work like that.

    The less wise move on to the next social network, season's fashion, gadget, etc., reasoning that because the old one turned out to be hollow crap the new one is bound to be better.

  32. Turtle


    "Facebook will LOSE 80% of its users by 2017 – epidemiological study"

    Does that mean they'll have to give the money back?

  33. Sub 20 Pilot

    Death of FB

    I use FB for keeping in touch with friends (People I actually know) in various parts of the world and across different timezones. I use it to serve my purposes when I pass comment etc on various things that go on locally or in the world. I have enough intelligence to know that posts are monitored etc etc and this is why I do post a lot of stuff. Because I need it to get to the people who I am aiming it at.

    If teens are leaving in droves, great, if people who are only interested in trendy shite are leaving, great. I would be happy if all the chavs, bad spellers, inane drivel posters, people who suck up bandwidth by reposting stuff, people who post thousands of cat photos, dog photos and other crap and spam posters all dropped out and found an alternative way of annoying people.

    I use it to post dates and photos that my contacts and I are interested in and for that I would pay a monthly fee so that I do not have to see pointless adverts and crud such as 'trending articles' that I have no interest in.

    I have never and will never spend my money with someone who spams or cold calls me. When I need anything, I will look online for it. I do not need ads to try and persuade me that I need a new pair of shoes or a pointless article telling me that a celebrity has had a new haircut.

    I do not expect stuff for free hence my offer to pay FB, Google and others for a valid and useful service. I use a number of utilities to cut out adverts, flash rubbish and other stuff that interferes with my browsing. I do this as I have no other option but if these people offered a 'premium' ad free, crap free service I would go for it.

    I stopped using Google, Bing and the big names for searches as they are only interested in what ads they can push at you rather than giving (or selling) you the information you need. It may not be for everyone but would work for me and I would pay a reasonable sum for it.

    It is doubtful but if all the morons and hipsters leave FB then they might have to do what the rest of us want or die.

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