Facebook Inc will soon let college students create special profiles specifically for connecting with classmates and joining campus events and groups – a return of sorts to the company’s early days when Facebook was exclusive to college students after chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg founded the social network in his Harvard dorm.
The new product, called Facebook Campus, will be part of the company’s existing service, but users must create a special profile using their university email address. The profile will be visible only to other students at their college and students will be able to join groups, find campus events and participate in classroom discussions.
The idea is to give students a “private, dedicated space to interact with their college life”, said Charmaine Hung, a Facebook product manager overseeing the effort. Profiles can include information like a student’s major, which dorm they live in, and what classes they’re taking. “We wanted to allow people to add information related to their specific college that they may not necessarily want to put on their main Facebook profile,” she added.
Hung said Facebook’s product will help students who aren’t actually living at school to stay connected with classmates and others at the many colleges and universities using full- or part-time remote learning to protect against the spread of Covid-19.
The product is launching with 30 colleges and universities beginning Thursday, including Duke University, Northwestern University and Virgina Tech.
As Facebook has gotten bigger and added features, the company has also been pushing users toward more intimate ways to share, including private groups and messaging. When Facebook launched a dating feature in the US last September, it asked users to create dating-specific profiles as a way to keep their dating life separate from their broader Facebook network. Campus operates in a similar way.
“People are looking for a space to connect around interests that are smaller than their entire Facebook” circle of friends, Hung said.
It’s possible Facebook Campus will also help the company stay relevant with college-age users. The network’s popularity among teens has waned in recent years, though the company’s Instagram photo-sharing service has maintained a strong following among young people. Instagram isn’t currently involved in Facebook Campus, Hung said, but could be included in some way in the future. – Bloomberg
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