There's a feud on the Internet between two polar opposites, East Coast and West Coast, old media vs. modern media, Ivy League gravitas against Silicon Valley geekery.
Princeton University is in one corner. In the opposite corner, Facebook.
The credibility of Princeton research is at stake, and - gasp - the future viability of Mark Zuckerberg's network. Mark Zuckerberg’s network's future viability is at stake. Or at least the hearts and mind of thousands of social media observers.
Last week, a group from Princeton published a study that predicted Facebook would lose an astounding 80% of users by 2017. The researchers based their projections on epidemiological models that are typically used to track the spread of diseases, using Myspace's demise as a case.
Researchers wrote that the data'suggests Facebook has already reached its peak and has entered a declining phase' in the unreviewed paper.
Facebook admits that recent research suggests that younger users are leaving Facebook in favor of other social platforms. Despite this, many observers questioned Princeton's method.
Will Oremus of Slate wrote, 'It is an old journalistic trick. Just add the words "research" or "study" to a sensational statement for instant credibility.' He criticized media outlets for not reporting the story critically. You're also absolved from any responsibility to verify its truth because everyone knows that journalists are not qualified to contest scientific findings.
Facebook responded on Thursday. Instead of issuing a pre-written statement or denouncing the researchers' methodology point by point, Facebook took a playful approach.
"Using the robust methodology presented in the paper, our team tried to learn more about the 'Princeton University.' You won't believe what they found!" Mike Develin, a Facebook data scientist, wrote a blog on his page.
Develin, with his tongue firmly in cheek, said that an examination of Facebook and Google trends spells bad things for the university.
This trend indicates that Princeton's enrollment will be half of what it is now by 2018 and, by 2021, there will be no students. This graph confirms the previous one on scholarly scholarliness. According to our scientific analysis, future generation will only be capable of imagining this now-rubble university that once walked the earth.
"Although the research hasn't been peer reviewed yet, each Like counts as a review. Start reviewing!
On Friday afternoon, his post received more than 8,100 Likes and comments like 'well done!'
Chris Taylor wrote on Mashable: 'You're going to the king of Social Media, and you better not miss'. CNET called this 'the comeback of comebacks'
The fight spilled onto Twitter where Huffington Post called the smackdown a "nerd brawl" and many observers credited Facebook with having a good sense of humor.
CNN's Friday request for comment from a Princeton University spokesperson was not immediately responded to.
Both institutions are not in imminent danger of dying out. Princeton accepted 7.4% of 24,498 applications for its current freshmen class, reinforcing its position as an elite university in the country. Facebook has 1.2 billion active monthly users as of September 2013.