Classmates is a social networking website based around high school friendships. Users can explore a community of people who they went to school with, reintroducing themselves or staying in touch with friends they still talk to. The site also boasts the largest online collection of high school yearbooks available. Users can search for their school by browsing states or countries. The application includes schools in the United States, Canada, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and France. Users can also view the year books page, which is sorted by decade starting with 1920 and ending in 1980. A state search option is also available for year books. The Classmates network currently covers more than 30 million individuals. Users should note that the number refers to all individuals found in yearbooks rather than users on the site.
Classmates was established in 1995 by Randy Conrads. The application was originally intended to help users find friends from all schools, including kindergarten, primary and high school as well as college, work and the military. The website refined its focus in 2010 to hone in on “nostalgic content,” primarily yearbooks. The site has received less than satisfactory comments, mostly because it charges a fee for its services. Although some claimed that the site’s layout and design has improved, the changes still aren’t enough to convince many users to pay. The popularity of Facebook severely impacted Classmates. The site was listed as the 4,211th most visited site on March 12th, 2011 by Alexa.com.
Classmates provides users with access to a huge database of yearbooks that go as far back as the 1920s. Few websites can claim a service with as many yearbooks as Classmates. Users create profiles with their real names, unlike some social networks that allow or encourage aliases. Classmates also protects users’ privacy through its “double blind” email system. The system permits users to message one another within the network; however it does not reveal the user’s actual contact details. User can choose to share their contact information, but they are not required to do so.
Classmates utilizes a simple layout that features a blue color scheme highlighted by hints of orange. The site is relatively clean and contains minimal clutter. That being said, Classmates doesn’t provide any cutting edge design elements to catch the eye. Most users come for the yearbooks, so this may not matter to most. The design is practical and serves its purpose, even if it doesn’t leave a lasting impression on the user.
New users can join Classmates by clicking the blue “Register for Free” link near the upper, left hand side of the page (above the blue header). The registration form on the next page asks for the user’s first name, last name (at time of graduation), email address, graduation year and the high school the user attended. An optional field is available for the user’s current last name (if it has changed since high school). The next page invites the user to purchase an All Access Pass. This step can be skipped by clicking the blue link in the upper, right hand corner of the page.
Classmates invites users to register for free. Users can also purchase an All Access Pass. The pass includes unlimited access to all features, the ability to see who visited the user’s guestbook, access to Classmates Maps, the ability to see who found the user in yearbooks and unlimited inbox features. The pass costs $2.50 per month for a three month subscription period. Users can also sign up for one year at $1.63 per month or two years at $1.23 per month. Each subscription must be made in a single payment.
Classmates is a decent social network for users who graduated in the 1980s or earlier. The application is based on high school friendships, so users who are interested in reconnecting will find much more to do. The service comes with a small fee, which turns some uses off. Sites like Facebook offer a better alternative to users who are younger as well as those who aren’t concerned with old high school friends or yearbook photos.