Two researchers from Princeton University released a now-famous study in mid-January, just as Facebook was about to celebrate its tenth birthday, predicting that the social media behemoth would lose about 80 percent of its users in the next three years. Other researchers, the media and Facebook themselves weighed in on the credibility of this study, criticizing its conclusions, exploring its weight and predicting what a future sans Facebook will look like.
Jeff Stibel, CEO and Chairman of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., made similar predictions for Facebook and other similar social technology networks in his book, Breakpoint: Why the Web will Implode, Search will be Obsolete, and Everything Else You Need to Know about Technology is in Your Brain, but his were a little bit less extreme, providing possible solutions to the inevitable breakpoint that all networks—biological and technological—experience.
In an interview with KOMO News Radio, spawned after the Princeton Study was released, Stibel described the cyclical stages of networks’ existence: acceleration and hyper-growth; the tipping point or breakpoint, when the network’s growth plateaus; full-bloom; then the shrink period. The shrink period, Stibel said, is when one of two defining things will happen with the network: 1. It will collapse and die, or 2. The network will hit equilibrium.
While the latter is the obviously the preferred option for networks, many will succumb to the first, take extinct breeds of animals that overpopulated and ran out of food, for example. Similarly, Facebook, which is probably ripe in the full-bloom stage, will no longer have the luxury to tap into new markets and gain new users because most of the population has already signed up, now, they must leverage value and maintain a steady amount of users.
So, while the Princeton study probably had Facebook’s shareholders up in arms, Stibel suggested that Facebook must not panic, but hone in on its value proposition and embrace the loss of some users. If the company can experience value growth in the midst of user decline, he said, it can avoid the predicted implosion.
The breakpoint that Facebook is currently experiencing should be a lesson for other networks, namely the World Wide Web, which Stibel predicts might succumb to user-preferred apps in the coming years.
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