Like an infectious disease that initially spreads and then abruptly dies, Facebook’s growth is set for a rapid decline within the next few years, according to a new study from Princeton University.

Researchers at Princeton’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering predict that Facebook will lose 80 per cent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, used epidemiological models used to track the spread of infectious diseases and publicly available Google search query data, to explain how users adopt and abandon online social networks.