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Farewell to Classmates

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I finally cancelled my classmates.com account this morning, approximately eight and a half years after I first signed up for it. (At the time I signed up, if I'm reading the signup email right, there were fewer than 40 other members who had overlapped with me in high school. At that time, the site emailed me a list of those other members, along with their email addresses. That seemed like a reasonably useful service, though with potentially unfortunate privacy implications. But later they made it much harder to get in touch with anyone via their service.)

I've been annoyed by Classmates for years, but not quite annoyed enough to unregister until today, when I received a note from them saying that had a new "guestbook signature." In other words, someone stopped by my "guestbook" page (a standard page provided by the site) and put their name on it.

I generally just ignore Classmates emails, but this time I was just barely curious enough to go take a look. And I discovered that it wouldn't even tell me who had signed my guestbook unless I signed up for a paid account.

Classmates is allegedly a social networking site, but if you don't pay to join, there's almost nothing you can do there other than receive their annoying emails. I did once send a message to a former classmate, but I felt bad about it later, because unless they or I upgraded to a paid account, the message would never be delivered. (I considered paying the upgrade fee to deliver the message, but I just didn't want to support Classmates.)

Contrast this to, say, Facebook, or Orkut or Friendster or LinkedIn or any of the other more standard social networking sites. Those sites want you to connect with friends and classmates and so on, because they're funded by advertising, and they know that more eyeballs means more money. Some of them still sometimes do the annoying thing where they send you email saying you have a message but not saying what it is, to lure you to the site; but my impression is that more sites these days are realizing that happy members are loyal members, and not doing stuff like that. And certainly none of them that I know of other than Classmates will refuse to give you any information unless you pay them; on the other sites, at worst the cost is that you have to visit the site for free.

So why pay Classmates for something you can get free elsewhere, with less unwanted email?

I shoulda unregistered years ago.

(I feel obliged to note that I feel funny about complaining about a service requiring money. Of course there are many many services, both online and off, that you have to pay for. But Classmates does a kind of bait-and-switch: it lets you sign up for free, it gives the impression that free membership is actually useful, but then it turns out that pretty much anything you might want to do there requires a paid membership. If they'd just said from the start "this is a paid service, you can't join unless you pay," I'd have been fine with that--but on the other hand, they would have far fewer members if they did that.)

1 Comment

I concur. I met a bunch of artists who actually USE myspace, so I wonder how hard it would be to get school alumni to use it.


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