When Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg launched the first incarnation of Facebook—then known as TheFacebook—from his dorm room in 2004, it was a social network for college students only. Originally just for Harvard undergraduates, it grew quickly—campus by campus—to Stanford, then Dartmouth, then Cornell and Brown.
And then it became a worldwide phenomenon, with more than 2.5 billion monthly users across the globe, spanning teenagers to octogenarians.
Now, as Facebook nears its 17th birthday, it’s getting back to its dorm room roots. Today the $700 billion company launched Facebook Campus, a new product once again meant for college students only. Here’s what to know:
What is it?
Facebook Campus is a dedicated section of the Facebook app that’s unique to a specific college. Students can sign up with their .edu email address and graduation year, to connect with classmates and see groups, events, a news feed, and chat rooms hosted within their school. (Basically, everything Facebook already offers, but within a school.)
According to Facebook, Campus can also mimic college life for students who might not actually be on campus due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Students can create study groups, plan virtual concerts or ask for advice” through the platform, says a company blog post.
As of now—just like back in the day—Campus is only available at a handful of colleges, including Brown University, California Institute of Technology, College of William & Mary, Duke University, and Virginia Tech (full list here).
Why is Facebook suddenly doing this “back to roots”-type soul-searching? Probably because as Facebook has aged, so has its user base. In 2018, a Pew Research study showed that only 51% of U.S. internet patrons of ages 13 to 17 used Facebook, and in 2019, Edison Research reported that Facebook has lost 15 million users in the last two years, with the biggest drop coming from the 12- to 34-year-old group. Meanwhile, young people are fleeing to other social media platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook-owned Instagram.
Facebook isn’t cool anymore—and it wants to fix that by bringing back the youth, by way of Campus.
Okay, cool. But where’s the $?
Facebook has said, notably, that Campus will not feature advertising in its news feeds, and advertisers will not be able to target Campus users specifically. However, they will be able to target general users by interests, including those indicated within Campus (such as if a student joins a rock climbing club or karate class).