Researchers at Princeton made news this week by proclaiming the impending doom of Facebook. They concluded that Facebook will lose 80% of its peak users between 2015- 2017.
Naturally this research report went viral.
But Facebook data scientist Mike Develin wasn’t prepared to let the researchers have the final word. He published a tongue-in-cheek response to the report, saying by using the same methods, “our research unequivocally demonstrated that Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely.”
His problem with the report was with how the Princeton folks went about studying Facebook. That’s because they used a tool called Google Trends to see how often people searched for “Facebook” on Google over the years.
They saw Google searches for “Facebook” decline, noted that when MySpace and Bebo waned, so did Google searches for those terms, and came to their dire conclusions. (It wasn’t that simple. There was a lot of mathematical modelling involved.)
So Develin looked at Princeton likes on Facebook and “Princeton” searches on Google, found them in decline and declared:
“This trend suggests that Princeton will have only half its current enrollment by 2018, and by 2021 it will have no students at all … Based on our robust scientific analysis, future generations will only be able to imagine this now-rubble institution that once walked this earth.”
But his punchline was really the best:
“While we are concerned for Princeton University, we are even more concerned about the fate of the planet — Google Trends for ‘air’ have also been declining steadily, and our projections show that by the year 2060 there will be no air left.”
Beneath Develin’s scoff is a more serious question about Facebook’s future. Facebook turns 10 on February 4. Is it really a thing that will last for decades?
Develin suggests that people look at actual data about Facebook’s daily use to decide. His data shows that daily of Facebook is still on the upswing.