Facebook to Princeton: You'll be gone by 2021

Earlier this week we highlighted a study from Princeton that used Google search trends to predict that Facebook would lose 80 percent of its users by 2017.

The study seemed so flat-out ridiculous that one site even gave it the coveted “WTF of the Week” award… and apparently they weren’t alone in questioning the methodology.

Facebook data scientist Mike Develin has decided to use similar methods to give Princeton a taste of its own medicine and “prove” that Princeton’s enrollment will crash all the way to zero in less than a decade.


Among other things, Develin looked at a steep decline in Princeton-related “likes” on Facebook as well as a drop in articles authored by Princeton professors retrieved by Google Scholar. If these trends persist, Develin “projects” that Princeton’s enrollment will be cut in half by 2018 and that no students will enroll in Princeton by 2021.

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"This trend suggests that Princeton will have only half its current enrollment by 2018, and by 2021 it will have no students at all, agreeing with the previous graph of scholarly scholarliness. Based on our robust scientific analysis, future generations will only be able to imagine this now-rubble institution that once walked this earth," he wrote.

Develin says that the point of this little exercise was to show that “that not all research is created equal — and some methods of analysis lead to pretty crazy conclusions.”

And he makes a good point: As much as a lot of people really, really hate Facebook, we can’t see it going the way of MySpace anytime soon.