February 23, 2004

Website Seeks C.U. Users

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“TheBearWeb.com is here, and it’s the hottest thing on campus,” claims a new website that targets Cornell students. The Bear Web, established earlier this month, is only a few weeks old, and users are slowly signing up. The site serves as a forum for student information, including everything from professor ratings to message boards, a photo gallery, games and ticket trades. Because the site depends heavily on student interaction, many of the sites pages, including its calendar and “Need A Ride?” board, contain no information at all.

According to the site, its mission is to be “an online community designed for the students to congregate, communicate, and generally vegetate.” A small announcement at the bottom of the front page reads, “Thebearweb.com is not affiliated with Cornell University at all!” and “powered by the students of Cornell.”

To sign up for the site, those with Cornell e-mail addresses can obtain usernames for no charge. However, anyone without a Cornell address must pay five dollars for membership. The only required information to set up an account is a valid e-mail address and the member’s sex and age. Other information is of course optional, and all entries are subject to large doses of creativity.

Most of the users appear to be freshmen, which may be a result of the flyers advertising the website in RPCC mailboxes that both David Collins ’07 and Justin Henck ’07 found, causing them to sign up. Josh Adams ’80, an alumnus who works for Cornell, received an unsolicited e-mail in a mass-mailing.

Many upperclassmen seem not to have heard or seen any advertisements for the site.

“I signed on and just took a look around,” said Collins. “I was most interested in the faculty reviews. There were only a few listed.” He thinks that if the site gets enough word-of-mouth publicity, it will gain more users and become more useful.

“The functions are overlapped by the class websites,” Henck said. “I’m not sure I would actually use it for anything … it is interesting to look at.”

“It seemed like it might be a really good idea,” Adams said. “I mean, the Cornell alumna websites are really kind of lame.” He hopes the site will provide a more modern forum for communication. Adams added that there were not many resources for users other than current students.

The question remains exactly who runs the site and what it is meant to become. There are no links to the names of any students, or any people who are running the site. The registration and administration can be linked back to Pennsylvania, as well as some of the pictures.

Adams speculated that this could be one of several websites set up at different universities trying to gain a student following as a money-making venture. “It’s very possible that it’s not run by students,” he said. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s actually commercial.”

He referred to sites like Friendster.com and Classmates.com, which began with free membership and later introduced a small fee, once they had gained substantial followings.

When asked if students would consider paying a fee later, if the site takes, off, Henck replied, “I don’t think so … college students don’t like to pay fees.”

Archived article by Stephanie Baritz