New features turn students on to, the free online community that is popping up in conversation and computer screens everywhere, may have some practical uses after all.

Though used mostly to find old friends and make new ones, can be a valuable student resource. For example, users could be surprised to learn that UAA has a group profile on the site where students can discuss university-related topics or start a study group.

A search for current UAA students and alumni results in more than 4,000 hits on, representing more than one-third of the total campus enrollment numbers. And with over 50 million users worldwide, it is ranked at the top of its category, according to, an online rating service for Internet sites. With these kinds of numbers, the potential for the site to be a valuable tool for students cannot be overlooked.

It is amazing to see how many screens in the Student Union open lab are logged and loaded with

Though popular, not all students, and even less of the faculty, know about or use

The UAA group profile only has 520 members, in stark contrast to the thousands that are affiliated to the school in some way.

John Minton, a human services major and user, said he uses primarily for social networking and entertainment.

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“I mostly use to reconnect with people that I haven’t talked to in a while, make new friends and just to kill the time,” Minton said.

Chris Fields, an undeclared freshman who used the Web site for nearly a year, said he hadn’t used the UAA group profile because of doubts he had about the timeliness of the information.

“[I would] check it out to see how user friendly it is to get information in a reasonable time.”

Whitney Lowell, a first-year theater major, expressed an interest in getting more of UAA’s student population on the bandwagon. She was especially excited about the idea of possibly having academic and resident advisors, as well as the student government, available to her through the site.

“That portion of (the UAA group) would be really good for informing students about events the university is having,” Lowell said. “Myspace and UAA have so much diversity, that that would be pretty cool.”

Fortunately, already offers an event invitation feature that you can use to invite friends or classmates to a movie, play, or midnight cram-session.

Jennifer Williams, a radiological technology major, uses it to find other students to study with, and Travis Holt, a nursing major, has used the recently added, “Rate Your Professors” feature. More often than not, the reason something is not used to its full advantage is people’s lack of understanding of the site’s features. was originally started in 2001 as a file-sharing Web site by Tom Anderson, Chris DeWolfe and small team of programmers. It later resurfaced in 2003 as the rapidly growing site we see today. The site is kept free through advertising, which in part explains the site’s phenomenal growth. It is continuously being updated and improved for easy navigation and use, the company said.