Chris Beam has a fun read at Slate about Campus Network, the Columbia University social network that launched at the same time as Harvard's Facebook (originally: The Facebook). Today, Campus Network (originally: CU Community) is a footnote to history. But in 2004, Beam writes, it was more developed than Mark Zuckerberg's site, and had a comparable Ivy League audience. So why are you on Facebook, and not Campus Network?
Facebook was the first to expand to other Ivy League schools, and beyond (it was catching on at Northwestern my freshman year in 2004, and I'd never heard of Campus Network until I read this article). While Campus Network debuted with customizable bells and whistles, Facebook exported a simpler, sleeker, more intuitive product: name here, information here, picture here, and the end.
Other factors contributed to Campus Network's downfall. User profiles were open to the public, scaring off some potential enrollees and allowing cyberstalkers to satisfy their curiosity without joining. Campus Network didn't expand quickly enough, either, allowing Facebook to get a first foothold in potential markets. And its aesthetics didn't help. "It looked like somebody who loves Dungeons & Dragons," says Ting. "It had that look and feel." And of course there's the H-Factor. "I think the name had a lot to do with it," says Ting. "When we go to a school and say this site is from Columbia, it doesn't carry the same marketing punch as, This is from Harvard."
A social media site open to the public! Who ever heard of such a thing?
Read the full story at Slate.
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