- Classmates.com has been repurposed and renamed MemoryLane.com.
- Millions of dollars have been spent by the parent company to make MemoryLane.com the biggest repository of nostalgia content on the Web.
- Some content is free, but unlike Facebook, other parts of the site you will have to pay to access.
Say "social network" and Facebook may immediately come to mind. But for many of us, Classmates.com was our real first exposure to the social networking phenomenon. It allowed us to reconnect with old high school friends. It provided the first digital means of answering the question, "Whatever happened to Fred?" But 15 years later, with a membership base of more than 50 million, Classmates faced an onslaught of competition from Facebook and other social networking sites.
And while Classmates was free for the looking, it cost money to actually connect. Not so Facebook, where everything is free. And it's tough to compete with free.
So Mark Goldston, chief executive officer of United Online, which owns Classmates.com, made a tough decision. He studied his user base and decided to invest tens of millions of dollars to repurpose the site, even changing the name from Classmates Online Inc. to Memory Lane Inc.
He admits that competition from Facebook was one reason for the change. "There is no denying that while Facebook got bigger and more developed, they become more of a competitor," he says.
He points out what he considers fundamental differences between the way boomers and so-called millennials make use of social networks. He says the younger users are eager to post their own content; their pictures, their stories, their videos. But older users are more interested in watching, not posting.
But Goldston says it was also the declining economy that prompted the change: "In a difficult economy, it becomes harder and harder if you have a nonessential product. Things become increasingly challenging. We don't think our business model was flawed, but our content just wasn't compelling enough."
So to make the content compelling, United Online has spent millions to acquire content from 1940 through 1999 to make MemoryLane.com what he claims is the biggest repository of nostalgia content on the planet — more than 100 million items. You'll find the entire collection of Look magazine. Every Saturday Evening Post. News clips from JFK's assassination and Neil Armstrong's lunar landing. There are clips from concerts, movies and, coming in May, classic commercials. There are newspaper clippings, even 70,000 high school yearbooks.
While the new Memory Lane site looks quite different, you can still find all the Classmates functionality right at the top of the new home page. So yes, you can still find your fellow graduates from the Class of 1962.