x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A question of longevity

Scientists predict the social networking giant will bite the dust in less than half a decade

Whether you “like” it or not, Facebook will mark its 10th birthday tomorrow. Since its launch on February 4, 2004, the site has expanded to cover almost every corner of the world. No wonder then that it has a billion-plus users – about one-seventh of the world’s population – according to the company. (Although many of those, according to analysts, are fake profiles.) But it’s influence goes beyond numbers: no other social-networking site holds sway over our lives the way Facebook does.

But, with smartphone apps entering the fray, chipping away at our attention, how long can Facebook survive? Could it suffer the same fate as the once-popular, now almost forgotten, MySpace?

Quite possibly, if researchers at Princeton University are to be believed. Using epidemiological models more commonly deployed to study the rapid spread of disease, researchers concluded that site’s charm will die out – by as much as 80 per cent by 2017 – as we become immune to it.

You might disagree. But with David Ebersman, Facebook’s chief financial officer, acknowledging last month that the site “did see a decrease in daily users, specifically among younger teens”, you can’t be sure. The number of users isn’t always the most important metric. After all, most people used to be listed in the phonebook.