Facebook's death: Greatly exaggerated
Beware the Ides of March!
It seems hard to even fathom that anybody would believe this, but the internet has been buzzing with stories alleging that on 15 March Mark Zuckerberg is going to give it all up and shut down Facebook.
The story was first reported by the Weekly World News, which has been in the past responsible for stories like "Alien Spaceships to Attack Earth in 2011", "Megan Fox is a man" and "George Clooney to Run or President".
Actually, I quite like the sound of that Clooney story.
But regardless of the publication's particular bent, it does not take a genius to work out how much of a load of hokey this is. The company has just been given a $50bn valuation, which of course some might also put down as a marvelous piece of fiction.
The Weekly World News has a fabulous "quote" from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who apparently told them "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."
The article continued: "'I personally don't think it's a big deal,' he said in a private phone interview. 'And to be honest, I think it's for the better. Without Facebook, people will have to go outside and make real friends. That's always a good thing.'"
Admittedly I wouldn't ordinarily give a story like this the time of day, but it was the reaction on Twitter and Facebook that turned it into something else. And that was probably down to the fact the magazine said that when Facebook cuts the cord on the 15 March, after that date "all photos, notes, links, and videos will be permanently erased".
Now if you are someone who has put a lot of work and effort into developing and maintaining your profile on Facebook, you might just be a wee bit wary. Just in case.
Comments on Twitter showed there were plenty who believed the story, some who were wary and others sneered:
"word on the streets is that march 15 will be the death of Facebook, what will I do !?! - MYSPACE? -_-"
"IS IT TRUE FACEBOOK GONNA SHUT DOWN ON MARCH 15th?..Because if so Death to all the Internet gangsters stalkers and pretenders..lol"
"Facebook Shutdown: Social Death Rumors Ignite!"
But such was the firestorm of comments and questions that even the venerable security company Sophos weighed in on its blog Naked Security.
"Most people would probably never believe such a load of old nonsense as the claim that Mark Zuckerberg is going to shut down Facebook, but it only takes a small proportion of people to think it might be possible to turn a joke of a news story into an internet hoax," wrote Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos.
"And although a hoax is nothing like as bad as a piece of malware worming its away between users and stealing information, it's still a nuisance, clogging up communications, increasing the overall level of spam and perhaps leading people to make decisions for the wrong reasons.
"There's an important lesson here - don't believe everything you read on the internet, and think twice before you pass a story on to your friends."
Okay so you have been warned.
But just in case you are still not convinced, Facebook itself has been forced to address the rumours because of the attention they have been given.
In a statement, the world's social networking company said it is business as usual:
"We didn't get the memo about shutting down, so we'll keep working away like always. We aren't going anywhere; we're just getting started."