Type of site
|Social networking service|
|Created by||Randy Conrads|
|Alexa rank||3,731 (April 2014)|
|Launched||November 17, 1995 (as Classmates Online, Inc.)|
It originally sought to help users find classmates and colleagues from kindergarten, primary school, high school, college, workplaces, and the U.S. military. In 2010, CEO Mark Goldston described the transition of the website "to increasingly focus on nostalgic content" such as "high school yearbooks, movie trailers, music tracks, and photographic images". To this end, and to appeal more to older users, the website name was changed to Memory Lane, which included a website redesign.
Classmates Media also operates the following international sites designed to enable users to connect with old friends:
Users and ranking among other social networking sites
In early 2008, Nielsen Online had ranked Classmates as number three in unique monthly visitors (U.S. home, work) among social networking sites. As of June 30, 2008, Classmates Media had more than 50 million members, but only 3.8 million paying subscribers.
According to the Online Publishers Association Paid Content U.S. Market Spending Report, Classmates.com was Number 4 among the Top 25 Web Destinations Ranked by Consumer Content Revenue in both 2002 and 2003 (the last years that individual site rankings were broken out). As more users moved to Facebook, the site has fallen in popularity. Alexa.com shows Classmates.com to be the 4,211 most visited website on March 12, 2011, falling from the top 1,000 as of January 2010. Classmates.com was one of the first social networks. However, its habit of continuously dunning customers for small fees prevented it from reaching the scale and popularity of later social sites.
Classmates.com members use real names, not screen names (although some members use a fake name). Member privacy is protected through a double-blind email system, so email addresses and contact information are never revealed unless self-disclosed by members one-on-one.
Registering and networking
It is free for people to register as a basic member of Classmates.com. Basic members can create profiles and search the entire social networking service for friends. Basic members may also post to and read community message boards and view information about upcoming reunions, but they may not email anyone or view other members' profiles. They can write emails and send them, but the recipient cannot read them unless the sender becomes a paid member. This doesn't become apparent until an email is already composed and sent. Basic members who try to send emails or view profiles are funneled to a page where they can upgrade to Gold member status for a fee. Gold members, who pay a fee, may view other members' profiles, photos, biographies, timelines, interests, announcements and send email to and receive email from any member, view notes posted on their profile bulletin board, see the names of others who have visited their profile and signed their guest book, access and use tools for planning reunions and create their own private groups.
Controversial business practices and legal issues
Membership renewal and cancellation
It is standard practice for Classmates.com to auto-renew memberships at the end of each billing period. In December 2006, when PCWorld field tested several companies to determine how easy or difficult it was to cancel their service, Classmates.com was one of the companies that received their worst rating.
Fraudulent e-mails and settlement
Classmates.com had sent a significant number of emails that told recipients their old friends from school wished to reconnect (and the recipients would need to buy Classmates.com memberships to receive their old friends' contact information). A class action lawsuit was brought against Classmates.com in 2008. The lead plaintiffs in the case, David Catapano and Anthony Michaels, would each receive $20,500 as part of a settlement. Classmates.com has agreed to pay up to $9.5 million to its users to settle the lawsuit. In addition, Classmates.com does not allow members to provide each other with private e-mail addresses, street addresses, or phone numbers, as this would allow the members to communicate with one another outside of the site and therefore not pay for communications.
Piggybacking and post-transaction marketing
Classmates.com was accused of piggybacking and post-transaction marketing. Parent company United Online earned $70 million from marketing practices under investigation in 2009 by the Senate Commerce Committee involving piggybacking a second credit card transaction with membership to Classmates.com involving a loyalty program.
Settlement on hidden online shopping fees
On August 18, 2010, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced a settlement with six companies, including Classmates, as part of a probe into the discount club industry. Classmates was among the retailers that agreed to pay $2.1 million toward refunds and consumer education. Under the scheme investigated, consumers who signed up for discounts or cash-back promotions were asked to enter their payment information; entering this information triggered small, easy-to-overlook recurring charges billed to unfamiliar company names. Classmates' share of the settlement amounts to $960,000 and a commitment to end these practices.
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- The View, February 1, 2006. Take a Second Chance with that First Love.
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- "Just Cancel the @#%$* Account! Big Hassles," PC World Magazine, December 22, 2006. Accessed May 30, 2007.
- Singel, Ryan (November 12, 2008). "Classmates.com User Sues; Schoolmates Weren't Really Looking for Him". Wired. Retrieved 2016-04-23.
- "Classmates.com settles suit over misleading e-mails", Ars Technica, March 2010
- "Classmates.com tied to more dubious marketing tactics", CNET News
- Greg Sandoval (November 23, 2009). "E-tailers snagged in marketing 'scam' blame customers". Cnet.com. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
- "UPDATE 1-Cuomo says 6 settle on hidden online shopping fees". Reuters. August 18, 2010.
- "Cuomo Obtains $10 Million In Settlements With Companies That Tricked Consumers Into Signing Up For Discount Clubs With Hidden Fees". New York Attorney General's Office. 2010-08-18. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
- Classmates.com official website
- Steven McArthur, Classmates Online, Inc. President Interview, Oct '08
- Consumer complaints against classmates.com