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Facebook will be overrun by the dead in 2100, study says

The social network could soon become something of a digital graveyard.

Servers at Facebook's Pineville data center

Servers could serve as virtual crypts.

James Martin/CNET

Deceased Facebook users will outnumber living users before the end of the century, according to a new study.

The Oxford study, called "Are the dead taking over Facebook? A Big Data approach to the future of death online," calculated the user growth of the social media platform. The researchers then determined that at Facebook's current growth rate, 4.9 billion users will be dead by 2100. Even if Facebook doesn't continue growing at the same rate, the number would reach 1.4 billion by the same year.

Earlier this month, Facebook reported having 2.38 billion users who log on every month.    

The study focused on all Facebook profiles belonging to deceased users, not just memorialized accounts. A majority of these deceased users will come from non-Western countries, primarily from Asia, according to the study.

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The study was published last week in the journal Big Data & Society. While it focused on the number of dead users, the researchers stressed the importance of curating this vast amount of data from real people. 

"These profiles are becoming part of our collective record as a species, and may prove invaluable to future generations," they concluded.

This April, Facebook introduced a tribute section for memorialized accounts to let family remember their loved ones that passed away. 

"We have a deep respect for our unique position in people's lives and take our role in the conversation on building legacy in a digital age seriously," said a Facebook spokesperson in an emailed statement. 

The company will likely mention its growth in its F8 2019 developer conference happening Tuesday and Wednesday in San Jose, California. 

Originally published April 30, 8:01 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:36 a.m.: Adds comment from Facebook.