PRINCETON, N.J. -- Facebook could lose 80 percent of its user base within the next three years, according to Princeton University study that likens the spread of social media behavior with that of infectious disease.

The study applied a modified epidemiological model to describe the adoption and abandonment dynamics of user activity of online social networks.

Or, as the website Vocativ summed it up, the idea is that infectious diseases and social networks behave in similar ways. In the early days, they spread quickly between people. Eventually, they reach a critical peak and then their prevalence or popularity declines.

The study uses MySpace as an example because it was one of the largest online social networks in history and its entire life cycle could be tracked on Google Trends.

MySpace, the researchers noted, was purchased by News Corp for $580 million and sold six years later for $35 million.

Extrapolating the best fit model into the future suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 percent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.

The study showed that Facebook has already peaked in popularity and is entering its decline phase.

Click to read the study (PDF)

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