Dec 072004
 
Authors: Amy Rizer

Thefacebook.com, a social networking Web site created for college students, is taking campuses across the country by storm, not excluding CSU.

What began as a networking system for students at Harvard University to meet classmates, friends, friends of friends, and so on, has become one of the largest networking databases for college students.

"Mark Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard, had the idea last winter," said Chris Hughes, co-founder of thefacebook.com. "(Zuckerberg) wanted to combine an idea for a universal online database with an interactive social networking interface."

After months of work and many late-night, dorm-room conversations, Zuckerberg and the four others that worked on the site released thefacebook.com in February at Harvard, Hughes said.

After only 10 months of expansion, thefacebook.com is available at 293 colleges across the country.

"We never imagined it would blow up like this; we've definitely been surprised," Hughes said. "At the outset, Zuckerberg was playing around with an idea for Harvard students, but now, it's a site with over a million users."

The site allows registered students and alumni to post a profile and photo of themselves, connect with classmates, visualize their network of friends and send messages to friends, all free of charge.

The facebook became available to students at CSU on Oct. 26 and in less than two months 2,577 CSU students have taken advantage of the new site, according to Hughes.

"My roommate told me about (thefacebook.com) and her old high school friend told her," said Bianca Pugh, a senior marketing student.

Hughes said he attributes the facebook's popularity and success mostly to word-of-mouth promotion.

The site also allows users to join online interest groups and connect with organizations and classmates. Groups are assembled around interests, associations, residences such as dormitories, sororities and fraternities, and vary from "The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too," to the "Colorado State Students For Beer at Hughes Stadium."

"One thing I really like about the facebook is if you are a member of a sorority or a club, you will be networked to all those people who are members too," said Kristen Nuttall, a freshman apparel and merchandise major.

Despite the facebook's popularity, it is not for everyone.

Hannah Rovner, freshman open-option major, said she has friends who use thefacebook.com, but she is not comfortable meeting people over the Internet.

"To be honest I am lazy and I don't have any interest in a site like the facebook," Rovner said. "Meeting people over the Internet is just weird."

Although thefacebook.com allows students to look for new friends over the Internet, a potential friend must request their friendship in the form of an e-mail before people are connected. Users have the option to accept, reject or deny a friendship.

"People have asked to be my friend, but unless they have class with me or I know them personally, I won't respond," Pugh said. "I definitely think I would not have talked to some of the people in my classes who I am now acquaintances, if not friends with, whereas we wouldn't have talked before."

A similar Web site, also created at Harvard University, called connectu.com, became public on May 20 and now hosts 345 colleges.

Cameron Winklevoss said he and connectu.com's other two creators came up with the idea for a student networking Web site at the end of 2002 when they realized there were 1.5 million college students in the Boston area and about 40 colleges.

"We wanted students to be able to meet other people that they might never come across," Winklevoss said. "We wanted to take down those barriers for students to meet random people and people with the same interests, at the same time make networking more accessible to everyone on a college level."

What sets connectu.com and thefacebook.com apart is there are no barriers between contacting people at other schools, Winklevoss said. On thefacebook.com students can only look at profiles within their school or of their friends.

"Our main goal was for students to get to know people at their school as well as other schools," Winklevoss said. "Connectu.com focuses more towards a global concept of socializing on a college level."

Connectu.com also allows students to buy and sell used books online, a feature that thefacebook.com does not offer.

Connectu.com and thefacebook.com are currently in a legal dispute over who has legal ownership over the college-networking concept the two Web sites have.

"The lawsuit will be a long and slow process," Winklevoss said.

Representatives from both Web sites said they will continue to focus on growth and expansion while waiting on the outcome of the lawsuit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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