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Thursday 21 August 2014

Facebook parodies Princeton's 'bubonic plague' study

Sophie Curtis

Published 24/01/2014 | 15:19

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Facebook uses Google Trends data to predict there will be no students left at Princeton by 2021, and no air by 2060
Facebook uses Google Trends data to predict there will be no students left at Princeton by 2021, and no air by 2060

Facebook has posted a dry response to a report by Princeton researchers, which forecast the imminent demise of the world's most popular social network, predicting that Princeton University may be in danger of disappearing entirely by 2021.

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The original Princeton study claimed that Facebook has spread like an infectious disease, but that users are slowly becoming immune to its attractions. The researchers predicted that Facebook will lose 80pc of users by 2017, by comparing the growth curve of epidemics like the plague to those of online social networks.

Princeton researchers John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler based their prediction on the number of times Facebook is typed into Google as a search term. They discovered that Facebook searches peaked in December 2012 and have begun to tail off.

Using the same "robust methodology", Facebook data scientist Mike Develin found that the percentage of Princeton papers in journals has dropped dramatically since 2009. He went on to highlight "a strong correlation between the undergraduate enrollment of an institution and its Google Trends index".

"Sadly, this spells bad news for this Princeton entity, whose Google Trends search scores have been declining for the last several years," wrote Develin in a blog post.

"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."

He went on to suggest that by the year 2060 there will be no air left, based on the fact that Google Trends for "air" have also been declining steadily.

In a postscript to the tongue-in-cheek blog post, Develin said: "We don’t really think Princeton or the world’s air supply is going anywhere soon. We love Princeton (and air). As data scientists, we wanted to give a fun reminder that not all research is created equal – and some methods of analysis lead to pretty crazy conclusions."

Facebook is currently the most used social networking service worldwide, with about 1.2 billion monthly users.

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