Freshmen launch social networking website

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November 14, 2011

11:36 PM

Chalked messages and thumbtacked posters dotted campus last week advertising a newly created website, www.CollegeCambio.com, the brainchild of two freshmen.

One day, while working out at the Student Recreation Center, two students from Yates began tossing ideas around for new ways to help College of William and Mary students, landing on an idea put forth by Joseph Laresca ’15.

“Why don’t we start a site for students at the College to buy and sell textbooks from each other?” Laresca said. “This could be a place where students could also find and offer rides, and other services, like tutoring, or post about campus events.”

Eventually, this idea became CollegeCambio, a marketplace exclusively for students at the College and formed by co-creators Laresca and Matthew Sniff ’15. Registering for the site requires an email.wm.edu address, which is provided only to students attending the College. This feature allows students to speak plainly and openly without influence from professors or administrators.

“Our main goal is to benefit the students of William and Mary,” Sniff said. “We hope that William and Mary students will embrace the idea and fully take advantage of it. Ideally, we would love for the site to one day be used by all colleges around the country.”

While the site’s purpose sounds similar to the original mission of Facebook, Laresca dismisses the similarities between the two sites. Instead, he says CollegeCambio is returning to the original roots of Facebook as a purely collegiate site.

“We’re not trying to be Facebook,” Laresca said. “We want to make [CollegeCambio] exclusive for college students … You’re just dealing with William and Mary students. It’s not supposed to be a social network.”

However, the similarity between CollegeCambio and the original version of Facebook may draw students of the College to the site, just as college students were originally drawn to Facebook.

“You had to have a William and Mary email to sign up. It reminded me of ‘The Social Network’ when Mark Zuckerberg explains that what sets Facebook apart is exclusivity,” Jake Lewitz ’13 said. “CollegeCambio reminded me of that, so I signed up.”

While innovative in many of its ideas, CollegeCambio follows in the footsteps of other sites for College students, specifically The Student Information Network, which closed in 2010, and HARK, a new initiative pursued by Student Assembly President Kaveh Sadeghian ’12. Despite the similar purposes between these three sites, Sadeghian approves of CollegeCambio and the initiative of Laresca and Sniff.

“I think it’s really cool that it’s a student initiative,” Sadeghian said. “It says a lot of good things about the College and the initiative of its students.”

Overall, Sadeghian feels the sites offer distinctly different services, despite the similarities in their makeup. HARK will utilize the existing College usernames and passwords, whereas in CollegeCambio students create their own usernames (similar to Twitter) with their College emails linked to it. HARK will also be institutionalized through the College rather than acting as an independent student-run site like CollegeCambio.

“I think HARK is a little bit different. It’s something we were going to use to run our elections through and for Student Assembly,” Sadeghian said. “They end up serving different approaches.”

Sadeghian said HARK is expected to launch by next semester, filling the void of the Student Information Network as a College-sponsored student site.

CollegeCambio officially launched Nov. 3, and in one week acquired about 600 members and logged 49,500 page views. Laresca has invested about $700 into the site, putting most of the funds toward the domain name. However, he ensures users that they will never have to pay for the site, and as of right now, advertising is not an option for the co-creators.

Freshman class President Drew Wilke ’15 sent an email to the Class of 2015 encouraging them to take a look at the site.

“I really think it’s just a great resource for students to use in terms of online interaction … It allows organizations to come in and place everything in one condensed area,” Wilke said.

CollegeCambio also works to erase middlemen, like Amazon, and in theory save students money and time.

“Think of CollegeCambio as William and Mary’s iPhone,” Sniff said. “Your iPhone has everything in one place. Our goal is for CollegeCambio to put William and Mary in one place.”

According to Wilke, the site’s current membership is predominately freshmen, as it was heavily promoted in Yates, where both Laresca and Sniff live. They hope to eventually get the entire student body on board, but some upperclassmen have qualms about the impact of CollegeCambio. Many do not see themselves utilizing the site regularly enough to experience its benefits.

“There’s a difference between having people sign up and having people use it,” Justin Miller ’13 said. “Though I will not use CollegeCambio, I admire the ambition and drive of Matt and Joe.”

Members of the site realize activity must increase for it to have the success that Laresca and Sniff predict.

“I think in general I encourage people to at least go and check it out,” Wilke said. “Right now the idea is out there and it has a lot of potential … it’s just a matter of people going out and using it.”

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