In 2014, Cannarella and Spechler uploaded a preprint to Arxiv presenting an epidemics model applied to the decay of online social networks. The measured the number of active users on Facebook using Google trends as above and fitted their model on the time series of interest. They extrapolated in the future and predicted that Facebook would lose 80% of its users by 2017:
Canarella and Spechler’s article got lots of attention in news media, being covered by Time and The Guardian. Now in 2021, not only Facebook hasn’t collapsed, but it has more users than ever and that Arxiv preprint hasn’t passed peer-review yet. What happened?
Data scientists at Facebook replied to the Arxiv paper showing the problem with measuring social network use levels using Google Trends data. Applying the same methodology, Facebook researchers reached the conclusion that Princeton would lose 80% of its students by 2021: