Peter Bromhead: Facebook's demise

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Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

When I learned recently that computer social media concepts such as Facebook would eventually die out, I couldn't resist a wry smile.

That's because I've never understood the attraction of exchanging trivia with acquaintances on the net.

Apparently, according to Princeton University researchers, we are all slowly developing immunity to the attractions of such programs, suggesting they will follow the same epidemiological model as the plague.

The university predicts that by 2017, such platforms will be largely abandoned.

The researchers used an analysis model identified as SIR - standing for "susceptible, infected, recovered". The program creates equations determining the path of epidemics, from original infection through to termination.

"Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between individuals before eventually dying out," the research authors explain in a paper.

Ideas? What ideas? I ponder, as I perceive some of the waffle transmitted daily on Facebook, where commentary struggles to get beyond "awesome", "fabulous" or a series of abbreviations, such as LOL.

I've certainly noticed the similarity between infectious diseases and the transmission methods used by another highly intrusive American communication program - the one we all know as LinkedIn.

Its development follows a similar pathway: first an invitation to allow a friend to join your network, with persistent reminders if you ignore this request.

If you respond positively by going online to the link, it beguiles you by offering another long list of people you may or may not know, and with whom you might wish to correspond.

If you are careless in declining this offer, you wake up to discover that LinkedIn has sent an invitation on your behalf to everybody on the list.

Thus the infection process spreads again.

Clearly, Facebook's impending demise, as forecast by Princeton's researchers, has not alarmed its investors. The share price has continued to soar, and the company is now valued at US$163 billion. This has made the company's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, one of the world's youngest female billionaires.

Sandberg was brought into the company to figure out how to make money out of the internet.

If she succeeds in solving this mystery, I would humbly suggest to my editorial superiors that they get down on their knees and beg her to come and solve the same problem facing the newspaper industry.

- NZ Herald

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