By GRAHAM SMITH
Last updated at 11:00 PM on 10th January 2011
It sparked a panic that quickly spread across the online social network community. Yesterday a rumour reporting the imminent demise of Facebook steam-rolled its way around the Internet. It remains unclear exactly where the false report began, but some news agencies have laid the blame at the door of Weekly World News, a website based in the U.S. Their article stated that ‘users will no longer be able to access their Facebook account’ from March 15.
False alarm: A mock story reporting the imminent demise of Facebook that ‘quoted’ Mark Zuckerberg steam-rolled its way around the Internet yesterday adding what appeared to be credence to their story was a quote attributed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The 26-year-old billionaire was quoted as saying: ‘Facebook has gotten out of control and the stress of managing this company has ruined my life. ‘I need to put an end to all the madness.’
However, it is April Fool’s Day all-year round at Weekly World News, which is well known for its false reports. Recent stories have included ‘Kate Middleton, age 36?’ and ‘Alien spaceships to attack Earth in 2011’.
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Despite being an obvious prank, it is easy to understand why such a false report would gain traction so quickly. After all, if true, a Facebook shutdown would affect more than 500million users worldwide, including 23million people in Britain. Yet within hours of the report being published late yesterday morning, it had started to build up steam as tens of thousands of people posted their reaction to the news. Some were left devastated. One pragmatic Facebook user wrote on his account: ‘Hope it’s not true, but if it is, we’ll have to accept it.’
Fans took to Twitter too, to tweet their dissatisfaction, although it’s reassuring to know that there is such a thing as social network snobbery out there. jjelksboss wrote: ‘So the rumour is Facebook is shutting down…. please don’t jump to Twitter & ruin my social networking experience.’ The hoax comes just days after it was revealed that Facebook was America’s most visited website in 2010, overtaking search engine giant Google for the first time.
The social network site edged out Google.com with 8.9 per cent of all U.S. visits between January and November 2010, while the search engine ranked second with about 7.2 per cent of all visits, according to online measurement service Experian Hitwise. Facebook’s move to the top spot shows just how quickly the site has grown in popularity. Within the span of six years, it has become the world’s largest Web social network with roughly half a billion users worldwide. Google.com dominated the top spot as the most visited website in the United States in 2009 and 2008. MySpace was the No. 1 visited website in 2007 in the U.S. It is now ranked number 7. However, when all of Google’s properties are considered – such as YouTube and email – it still reigns as the most visited site at 9.9 per cent between January and November 2010. Facebook follows at 8.9 per cent. Yahoo and all of its properties ranked third at 8.1 per cent.