The internet is dying, according to an influential US political scientist.
Dubbed the “great social experiment” by the US Government, Facebook’s global advertising market is worth $10.7 billion (€7.5 billion) per year and will likely shrink to $1.1 billion by 2029.
According to research from US think tank the Pew Charitable Trusts, Facebook lost about 10 million users between 2016 and 2021.
Its global advertising audience dropped from over 2 billion users in 2016 to fewer than 1.5 million users in 2021.
In a new paper, Professor Thomas Latham from the University of Michigan, and colleagues from Oxford University, the University in Berlin and the University College London, argue that Facebook’s advertising market has been largely unsustainable for the last five years.
The researchers argue that there is an urgent need for a “new social experiment”, which would see a company that would invest in a new way of promoting its products, instead of one that simply advertises them.
“Facebook is a great social experiment,” Latham told the Irish Times.
“If it goes out of business, then it’s not going to be a great experiment in terms of innovation.
But it will be a good experiment in innovation.”
Latham is not the only person to suggest that Facebook has lost the battle for its users.
In 2017, Google CEO Sundar Pichai suggested that the company’s “market share will shrink significantly” over the next five years and that it was “time to think about our future”.
Google and Facebook both have strong financial resources to invest in new advertising platforms, but Latham said that it is “premature to speculate” on whether they would survive without investment.
“It’s not as if we have a crystal ball that tells us that the future is looking up,” he said.
“There are so many things going on that could go wrong and Facebook could go into a deep recession.”
“There’s a lot of things that could happen in the future.”
Facebook was founded in 1998 and is now worth $100 billion.
In 2017, it was reported that the site was selling more than 5 billion advertising impressions each month.
The study found that Facebook users have more than tripled in the past decade, but that it had also lost more than 7 million users, with almost half of those lost between 2016-2020.
The report also revealed that between 2017 and 2021, Facebook ads generated a total of $1 billion in revenue and generated more than 30% of all ad spending on the internet.
The research team says that Facebook is the only major internet company that continues to spend money on advertising, despite having less than 1% of internet users.
“We think that it will continue to be the dominant advertising platform for the foreseeable future, and we believe it’s an important part of the internet that we’re not doing anything about,” Larkin said.