Finding old pals, old flames on the Web
By Kim Komando
Reconnecting people with friends and family from years past is a popular online business.
The 800-pound gorilla in reconnections is Classmates.com (www.classmates.com). According to Nielsen/Net Ratings, Classmates attracts 13 percent of all Internet traffic. In September, the most recent month available, Classmates had 16 million unique visitors. That's huge!
What's the appeal? To find out, I signed up for a free membership on Classmates.com. I wanted to check my high school class. I found a listing of about 50 percent of the people who graduated in my class.
I started with a casual interest, at best. But it's addictive; I find myself going back occasionally to see if there's anyone new.
Classmates also allows you to sign up for a former job. It works the same way. You enter the period in which you worked at the company, and it tells you who else is registered. I tried that, too, but unfortunately, I was the only one signed up. Classmates also offers reconnections for military and college.
More than matchmaking
According to Nielsen/Net Ratings, there are other people-to-people services that have enough followers to attract notice. They're primarily matchmaking sites. But Classmates stands alone, given its huge traffic.
Of course, there are some reunion competitors. Who? Me? (www.who-me.com) is a reverse people-finder Web site. Register for free and find out who's been looking for you. Maybe you'll find a former flame at the Lost Love Registry (www.lost-love-registry.com).
Military.com (www.military.com) searches more than 10 million records to help you find your old buddies. Here, the government is willing to help, too. Drop by the Military Locator Services site (www.pueblo.gsa.gov/call/locating_individuals.htm) to get details on finding current and retired personnel for branches of the military.
Getting what you pay for
The free Classmates service is not terribly rewarding. In the case of my high school class, only a few people had put personal information online. And Classmates only lets you see a small portion of that. You can't really reconnect; no e-mail address is shown.
Things are better with the Gold membership. That will cost you $36 a year and give you access to all the information entered by the other person. You get that person's e-mail address. You can join message boards, exchange photos or plan reunions.
These things strike me as marginally beneficial. However, if you are able to contact just one person who's important to you, getting that e-mail address may be worth the money.
The personal information, even with the Gold membership, doesn't include much. Your educational achievement is there, along with your position on the political spectrum. Your marital status, number of children, state where you live and what drew you to Classmates are other interesting questions.
The form also wants to know what kind of pet you have, how you're doing, what you drive and what you see as your dream vacation. Those all seem pointless, but maybe some people are interested in them.
One caveat: I have received complaints from people who wanted to be deleted from the service but could not find a way to do so. According to Classmates' privacy section, you can delete your registration at www.classmates.com/user/remove. Classmates says you can get further help at Member Care.
Many people have a need to stay in touch with the past. The Internet is less problematic than going to a class reunion because nobody can see your bald spot or wrinkles.