Technological online trend takes campus by storm

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The sound of AOL Instant Messenger ringing though residence halls may be quieted by the newest online trend, thefacebook.com.

The Web site, online since Feb. 4, is the newest way to connect classmates and friends at universities and colleges nationwide. More than 200 schools are already participating, and Marquette students were officially welcomed to the craze Oct. 26.

The brainchild of four Harvard University undergraduates, the site allows students to register for free with a valid college e-mail address. Once registered, students can look up their friends, create a profile with personal information and a list of the courses they are enrolled in, join student-created groups for common interests and send messages to other members.

Christine LaVenture, a sophomore in the College of Communication, heard about thefacebook.com from her friends at Columbia University and requested that Marquette students be able to access the site.

"It's a good way to stay in contact and make new friends," she said.

Nicholas Barrale, a College of Business Administration sophomore, said he joined the directory about three weeks ago.

"It's kind of addicting," Barrale said. "You can look up friends from high school and see what they're doing. It's a good way to put a name to a face." Students are able to post their picture in their profile.

Steve Miller, a College of Business Administration senior, said he joined thefacebook.com friday and enjoyed getting contact information from friends.

"It's a nice way to network with people," he said.

Thefacebook.com was created last winter in the halls of Harvard by Mark Zuckerberg , a junior computer science major there.

Zuckerberg "wanted to combine an idea for a universal online database with an interactive social networking interface," said Christopher Hughes, a junior history and literature double major at Harvard, in an e-mail.

The Web site was released a few weeks later after hard work and conversations with fellow Harvard juniors, Hughes, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, both economics majors, and Andrew McCollum, a computer science major.

Hughes said the creators do not promote the site themselves but use commercial sponsors to finance thefacebook.com. Schools do not sign up or pay to join thefacebook.com.

Students are able to list their phone numbers, addresses and AOL Instant Messenger screennames.

The Web site offers many privacy options and allows students to display as much or as little information as they want, Hughes said.

"We stand by the privacy of our users," he said in an e-mail. "If any user does use the network inappropriately, we'll throw that person off the network."

Miller said he is not worried about his information not being secure.

Thefacebook.com is not the only online endeavor the Harvard students are planning. According to Hughes, their approach is three-pronged.

Hughes said thefacebook.com will continue to expand and hopes the directory will reach 1 million users by the end of the year. Existing features will be updated and new ones added and the site will team up with another project called wirehog.com.

According to Hughes, wirehog.com will allow students to download files from their friends at thefacebook.com. The new program connects users to people they listed as friends at thefacebook.com. It is capable of not just sharing but downloading other people's files.

Wirehog.com is a creation of McCollum, Zuckerberg and Adam D'Angelo, a CalTech student. The three developed it in August and September, according to the Web site.

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