SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A new study by two students at Princeton University is predicting Facebook will lose 80 percent of its peak user base by the year 2017.

In the study, “Epidemiological modeling of online social networks dynamics” by Princeton Ph.D. candidates Joshua Spechler and John Cannarella, the students argue that Facebook is “beginning to show the onset of an abandonment phase” and they predict a “rapid decline in Facebook activity in the next few years.”

The paper, which has not been peer-reviewed, compares the popularity of Facebook to the spread of a disease or illness, and that while it can spread, it will also eventually fade away. They also cited the rise and fall of MySpace in their study.

Many in the tech industry and those who study social media are skeptical about the results, especially in terms of comparing Facebook to MySpace. They said unlike Facebook, which has a fairly wide appeal, MySpace was for a niche audience and the website never evolved.

Most analysts said that they expect the number of Facebook users to decline in the coming years, especially in terms of teens. But with the constant tweaks the company is implementing, they also expect the website to attract more new users as well.

In a mocking response to the study, a data scientist with Facebook posted his “own study,” claiming that “Princeton may be on the verge of disappearing entirely.”

You can hear Larry Magid’s Tech Report Monday through Friday at 3:50pm on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

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