Is Facebook REALLY dying?

Princeton University (whose famous alumni include Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) have published a scientific study predicting the death of Facebook, including the very bold claim that the social networking king will lose 1 billion users by 2017.

The paper, published by the aerospace engineering department (why are they writing studies about Facebook?), applied the idea that social networks work in the same way as a virus (charming). Using the past of examples of MySpace and Bebo, the paper presents the theory that social networks tend to reach a ‘peak’ and then crash and burn. The Princeton boffins used Google trends as an indicator of popularity (rather than the number of active users), and came to the conclusion that ‘Facebook is screwed’. If you fancy a boring read, here is the original study.

While a surefire way to get social marketers all in a tizz, the study has been widely debunked as unreliable and a clever piece of clickbait. Critics have pointed out that MySpace started its painful death in 2007, and the internet is a very different place now, so the trend simply doesn’t apply anymore. Though Facebook may have reached a peak, and it did admit to losing a lot of teenage users late last year, there is no indication that a billion people are going to abandon the social juggernaut. Your Mum is still going to be liking all your posts in 2017.

Facebook’s data scientist Mike Develin made a very funny post in reaction to the study this week, destroying the conclusion by applying the scientist’s same methods to Princeton itself. His conclusion? Princeton’s Google trends have also been falling recently, and will therefore have no students by 2021. Develin further mocked poor Princeton with another little experiment…

“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.”

That is a very nerdy burn.