Groups for Schools will let students create groups for classes, dorm halls, or clubs, viewable only to users in the university network.
Yesterday, Facebook launched its latest sharing tool on its social network, called Groups for Schools. Only available to students and professors with an .edu email address, the new feature of the site allows for collaboration and file sharing. If you don’t have an .edu email address, or are wary of trying Facebook’s new service, keep reading to get a run down of the features that come with the new groups.
News of Groups for Schools broke in December, when Facebook started testing its product at Brown and Vanderbilt. Those schools were chosen because of their email system: students have .edu email addresses which are clearly differentiated from professors’ .edu email addresses, so Facebook can do more testing between how students use these new groups, and how professors use the school groups.
A school group operates much in the same way other Facebook groups do, but instead of being public to all of Facebook, when a school group is public it’s only public to the rest of the university network. If we can remember all the way back to 2006, in the early days of Facebook, the site was exclusive only to those who had .edu email addresses in the first place. Although the groups can be publicly viewable to the entire university network, they are created to be specific to say, dorm halls, classes, or clubs.
However, before Facebook was even a twinkle in Mark Zuckerburg’s eye, Facebook’s CEO had a project called Wirehog. It was a peer-to-peer file sharing service, but it didn’t have any monitoring in place. The project was abandoned fairly quickly to make sure the creators wouldn’t get into any copyright trouble based on what their users were doing.
Now, Facebook has file sharing capability (up to 25MB per file) for school groups. However, the company will be actively monitoring what is uploaded, and taking down any copyrighted material. In 2010, Facebook bought Drop.io (another file sharing service), so some type of file sharing service has been on Facebook’s agenda for some time now. Little did Facebook know that Drop.io’s founder Sean Lessin (who stayed on at the social networking conglomerate after his company was bought) would go on to create Timeline.
Limitations (aside from the size limit) that Facebook is enforcing on the file sharing include not uploading any .exe files in case anything malicious like malware gets uploaded. Other students will be able to download the uploaded files right from their news feeds. Additionally, users that are given permission to do so will be able to revise the document.
Overall, it looks like Facebook is trying to re-engage its original demographic that has since stopped sharing as much information about classes, tests, or college parties since Facebook is open to employers, other schools, and any one else for that matter. Now, all of that information, if shared in a school group, will truly only be visible in the university network.
This raises the question, why share information like that with professors? One aspect Facebook may not have accounted for is if students want to vent about a test or talk about a dorm party, they most likely won’t want to do that in a forum where their professors are just as welcome as their classmates.
And if I may cite something from my own college experience: my school stopped offering .edu email addresses to students because it wasn’t really worth it. Every student could get a reliable, free email service online, so why provide on through the school? Students at schools like mine, that no longer offer .edu email addresses, will be left out of the new Groups for Schools service.
Although the service hasn’t rolled out to all universities yet, students can start signing up for admittance when their schools do receive the Facebook group. If you want to learn more about Facebook, check out the company’s latest acquisition of the photo-sharing app, Instagram.