“Facebook is about to lose 80% of its users, study says” Time, January 21, 2014.
“Facebook will lose 80% of users by 2017, say Princeton researchers.” The Guardian, January 22, 2014
We should always be wary of exciting headlines; too often they mean that the journalist knows that there’s no story.
The study in question, ‘Epidemiological modeling of online social network dynamics‘ is interesting enough, and the idea of using epidemiological models to analyse social trends is extremely fertile.
The proposed infectious recovery SIR model (irSIR model) is validated using publicly available Google search query data for “MySpace” as a case study of an OSN that has exhibited both adoption and abandonment phases. The irSIR model is then applied to search query data for “Facebook,” which is just beginning to show the onset of an abandonment phase.
They used Google Trends data. Here’s the trend for MySpace:
And here’s the trend for Facebook:
And here’s their re-based chart:
You can see why they might think they were onto something, right?
Wrong! They’re missing an important data point. According to October’s earnings call, 48% of Facebook’s Daily Active Users (DAUs) are accessing only from mobile.
Google – as one blogger points out – is still the luddite’s address bar. That is, people still search Google for Facebook rather than typing “facebook.com” into their browser. I think it’s unfair to call this audience “luddites” — they’re still the majority.
But when they’re on their smartphones, they just tap the home screen icon for Facebook. They don’t need to search. So roughly half of all Facebook’s DAUs have stopped searching Google for Facebook. That’s where those missing searches have gone.
Oh, and by the way, here’s the Google Trend for Twitter:
Facebook responded with an hilarious post, ‘Debunking Princeton’. Go read it. I won’t spoil it here.