Last week, Bill Gates let it slip in an interview with the Daily Mail that the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, may be engaged to long-term girlfriend Priscilla Chan. The comment was enough to excite a new round of gossip about the worlds youngest billionaire. But while chit chat about Zuckerbergs life, his girlfriend and even his dog, Beast, are at an all time high, the young entrepreneurs popular creation, Facebook, seems to be slowing down.
Over the past year, Facebook has lost about 6 million users in the United States. The social networks U.S. users still number approximately 150 million, but 1.6 million people in Canada and 100,000 people in the UK, in Norway and in Russia closed their accounts. Still, the site increased in overall number of global users 1.7%, thanks to growth in developing countries and to Italy.
According to Corrado Calabrò, president of the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM), Italy along with Brazil has the worlds highest number of new Facebook users. In the past two years, the number of Italian Facebook users increased from 11 million to 20 million. The time an average Italian user spends on Facebook is also the highest in the world.
In more digitally evolved countries, social network fever appears to be cooling off. Some long-time Facebook users complain that the site is becoming less engaging. But it Italy, users still seem to be getting a charge out of the social network, which can offer gratifying virtual relations or an escape from boring office work.
An information technology research firm called Gartner Inc. uses the concept of a hype cycle to explain the recent levelling off of Facebooks once meteoric surge in popularity. The cycle is a graphic representation of the maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies.
The first phase is the Technology Trigger, or breakthrough. Next is the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" phase, which is followed by a period of growing criticism. Technologies enter a third phase, the "trough of disillusionment," because they fail to meet inflated expectations.
In the most digitally evolved countries, Facebook is going through this third phase, according to Gartner. The users who discovered it early on no longer have the motivation and emotional drive to use the social network.
If Facebook is to continue following the hype cycle, it will move next into its mature phase the "plateau of productivity" where interest in a technology stabilizes as people who rely on it for specific services remain loyal.
Read the original article in Italian