Fighting Facebook: Rating the College Social Networking Sitesposted by Mark on January 29th, 2009
Facebook was founded in 2004 as a social networking website for college students — initially at Harvard University, and then expanding to all colleges in the United States. Since then, though, it’s become open to anyone and everyone, student or not, with over 150 million users worldwide. So what’s left for college students who want to feel like they’re part of a smaller, closer-knit online community? A handful of social networking sites are fighting to fill the gap left by Facebook’s success by targeting students like you.
Equal parts social networking (blogs, photos, polls) and study aids (flash cards, practice tests, news articles), some of which hasn’t been updated for a couple of years.
Advice column, auctions, forums, groups, photos, videos, poetry, a “hot or not” rating game, articles and reviews — almost all student-written. You earn points by visiting pages, which you can use to bid on items in their seemingly infrequent auctions. A lot of potential content, but most sections contain little.
This matchmaking service personalized to specific colleges (several dozen at this point) asks each user to complete a multiple-choice survey that produces a report of the student’s 20 most compatible matches at the college. Students can also check their compatibility — displayed as a percentage — with any registered user. You must have a “.edu” email address from a college that has signed up for the service.
Designed with academics in mind, this site lets you submit questions for others to answer, form study groups, organize research, format bibliographies, create footnotes, and locate items in your school’s library (theoretically).
Claims to be for college students, but although you can enter in your college and area of study, this site is open to anyone. Most users probably aren’t in college. It works like a standard dating site in which you set up a profile, search for compatible criteria, contact people you find interesting or take your chances in a chatroom — with all the baggage that that entails.
This bare-bones social network setup (just a profile, friends, inbox, discussion board, etc.) was built by former schoolmates of the Facebook founders who later sued Facebook for stealing their idea. Seems pretty dead at this point.
A social network devoted to individual colleges, IsTalking.com is currently only in place at on school, Arizona State (asuistalking.com), although it has ambitions of expanding to 300 colleges nationwide. It contains standard social network content, like profiles, pictures, email and groups, plus music and video sharing, local news and local job search. You must have a Gmail or “.edu” email address to sign up for your free account. There’s also an alumni site, ASUAlumniIsTalking.com.
Slick with a lot of potential content — friends, networks, events, upload pics/videos/songs (legally), reviews, local business profiles, Craigstlist-y classified ads, professor ratings, class notes, instant messaging — that relies on a popularity that isn’t quite there yet. You must have a “.edu” email address to sign up for your free account.
A flashy, male-oriented site featuring profiles, sports, forum, chat, blog, videos and pics. Many of the female “student” profiles look strangely like Playmates. As is to be expected, much of the content is sexual in nature, such as the photo gallery “Girls Kissing Girls” and the video “iBoobs on iPhone”. You must have a “.edu” email address to sign up for your free account.
Previously known as Collegetonight.com, this site is split into four sections: The Scene (social life), The Shop (spend your parents’ money), Academics (work on group projects online) and Greek Life (keep business records and create social events for fraternities and sororities). Otherwise, it as a Facebook-like setup with profile, friends, messages, etc.
Of course, none of these sites’ popularity is even a drop in the bucket compared to Facebook — or even MySpace. In order to make a dent in the domination of these sites, a social network has to provide something the popular sites don’t. While Facebook is no longer a college-only haven, many college students still find it useful and would need another site to generate a unique experience in order to convince them to sign up. One possible solution that a few of the sites on this list have touched upon is a focus on local, school-specific content. CampusMatch.com, IsTalking.com and LymaBean.com all provide content tailored to each individual college, something that may not help them grow into the megasite that Facebook is, but which is a selling point that could convince students to use these sites as supplemental resources.