Facebook launches Campus to keep college kids connected (again)

When you see Mark Zuckerberg being grilled by Congress or listening to people discuss his company's role in presidential elections, it can be easy to forget Facebook's roots as a college-only social network. Now, with a new school year upon us, Facebook is embracing its history with the launch of Facebook Campus, a, uh, college-only social network. 

Or rather, social networks. As its name suggests, Facebook Campus was built to service the students of a single school, so the vibe on Rice University's network could be totally different from the one put in place for the New Jersey Institute of Technology. All students need to get started (apart from matriculating at a supported school) is to punch in their college email and graduation year. By default, a student's name, profile photo and hometown will be carried over from their regular Facebook profile to their Campus profile, but since college is to some extent about starting fresh, kids can later edit some of those details. Once that's all sorted, students can stay up to date with to the campus-specific news feed, build groups around shared classes or events, create chats for residents of specific dorms, and more. 

Granted, kids could do just about all these things with regular old Facebook anyway. What really makes Facebook Campus unique is that it works like the company's name sake -- the student directories usually passed out at the beginning of the year. Facebook says Campus users can pore over profiles and search for other students based on their "class, major, year and more." The only catch is, since Facebook Campus usage is purely voluntary, a student searching for everyone who attends a specific lecture probably won't be able to find every single person. That is, unless Facebook Campus hits the same kind of critical mass as the original platform did in the mid-2000s and students start feeling left out if they don't use it. 

There is one more thing Facebook Campus shares with the Facebook of yore: It isn't available everywhere just yet. At time of publication, the feature is live at just thirty schools around the US, including well-known names like Brown, Johns Hopkins, Tufts, Vassar and the University of Pennsylvania, along with smaller institutions like Scripps College, Spelman College and Middlebury College. (You can find the full list of participating schools here.) 

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