KUALA LUMPUR - The Internet was abuzz yesterday as rumours spread that the popular social networking site Facebook would be shutting down on March 15. A glance on online trend-tracking system GoogleTrends indicated the rumour started gaining traction yesterday at 4am before peaking seven hours later.
If true, the shutdown could affect some 500 million users worldwide, including some 9.9 million users in Malaysia.
It is unclear where the rumour began, although some publications have attributed it to a widely-linked article posted by US-based news website, the Weekly World News.
The article stated that "users will no longer be able to access their Facebook account" starting March 15, and quoted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
"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," he was reported to have said.
Weekly World News, however, is known for its comedic news spoofs and blatantly false reports, with its recent articles claiming that United States First Lady Michelle Obama was pregnant and that actor George Clooney would be running for president next year.
Facebook representatives have yet to address the rumour. For now, however, it is fairly safe to assume the speculation is a hoax.
The rumour came on the heels of major developments in the industry, with online services corporation Yahoo! announcing last month that it would be shutting down its Yahoo! Video service, also on March 15.
The Facebook corporation's value is also set to rise to US$50 billion (RM153 billion) following a recent announcement that global investment firm Goldman Sachs and Russia's Digital Sky Technologies would be investing some US$500 million investment in the social networking giant.
Meanwhile, MySpace.com, another social networking site which has struggled to compete with Facebook's success, is reported to be planning a massive restructuring project, which would reduce its international workforce to a skeleton staff.