In 2005, two high school students decided that high school yearbooks weren't up to snuff. They felt students today have a lot more to share than any yearbook could contain. These two students, Dave Cook and Catherine Cook, decided to create an online social networking site based around the concept of a high school yearbook and myYearbook was born.
The site is more than just a virtual yearbook. Like other social networking sites, myYearbook lets members create profiles and interact with each other. In some ways, it's similar to sites like Facebook and MySpace. But myYearbook has many unique features of its own.
Dave and Catherine, the founders of the site, want myYearbook to be a social networking site that people stick with through high school and beyond. Ideally, myYearbook will let people not only connect with old friends and make new ones, but also network with potential employers.
In 2008, myYearbook became the fastest-growing social networking site in the United States. At that time, the site had more than 11 million members with 40,000 joining every day as of October 2008 [source: myYearbook]. Not a bad achievement for a couple of high school students.
While myYearbook has some catching up to do with behemoths like Facebook -- which boasts more than 200 million active users -- it continues to be a popular social networking site. The developers for myYearbook have incorporated several clever elements into the design of the site that attracts new members and keeps established members engaged. Users can play games, contribute to charitable causes or research projects, take quizzes or even use a dating service on the site.
Let's take a closer look at how to create a myYearbook profile.
To create a profile on myYearbook, you'll need a valid e-mail address. You'll also need to fill out an online form with your name, location, gender and birthday. Then, you'll need to enter a CAPTCHA code to verify that you're a real human being rather than an automated program.
Once you've filled out the form, the next step is to start searching for friends. The developers of myYearbook automate this process and let you search by pulling friends from address books for other services like Hotmail or Yahoo Mail. If your contacts have myYearbook profiles, the site will send a request to their account. If they don't have an account, you can choose to send them an e-mail inviting them to join myYearbook and build their own profile.
The final step is to upload a photo for your profile image. Once you've chosen an appropriate photo as your profile image, myYearbook will provide you with Lunch Money, the virtual currency of myYearbook. The more people you invite to join myYearbook, the more Lunch Money you'll receive.
Once you've finished the initial process, you'll have built a basic profile. But that's just the beginning. You can fill out your profile with more information about yourself. You can set a status message similar to a Facebook status or Twitter message. You can also create playlists of songs, add videos to your profile, add television shows, manage friends lists and post blog entries.
The myYearbook user interface is similar to other social networking sites. The main tabs allow you to go to the home page, your profile page, a friends page that lists all the users you've designated as friends and tabs for various games, quizzes, applications and messages. The layout is intuitive and uses playful fonts and images.
It's not difficult to explore the site and contact people. It's also not hard to pick a fight. Next, we'll look at myYearbook battles.
One of the popular applications on myYearbook is the Battles feature. Members can battle one another by uploading photos or videos of themselves and challenging other users. There are many different categories members can choose from to categorize their battles. They range from Best Pet to Biggest Dork to Who Would Win in a Fight?
Once a battle begins, other myYearbook members can vote on the person they think should win the contest. Normal votes cost nothing and are worth one point. But you can also choose to cast a supervote. Supervotes are worth either five or 10 votes and cost $500 or $1,000 in Lunch Money, respectively. Members can also choose to join a VIP club to receive access to larger supervoting privileges among other benefits.
Battles can turn into popularity contests. People who have a lot of friends may have an early advantage. The participant can ask his or her friends for support in the battle. But anyone can view battles even if they aren't friends with either of the participant so having a lot of friends doesn't guarantee a victory.
The site keeps a record of wins and losses for each member. You can view a member's battle history and see how he or she stacks up against other people in various categories. There's even an option to view the hall of fame and see the people who have won the most battles.
Of course, with any contest there will be people trying to game the system. On myYearbook, the most common tactic is to use the RTF tactic. RTF stands for "return the favor." Essentially, by voting for that person in a battle, you will have that person's support in a future battle of your own. If the person you support has a lot of friends, you may end up with hundreds of votes on your side. Of course, your opponent is likely trying to do the same thing.
You might wonder if the battles mean anything at all if, at the end of the day, it's just a measure of who has the most influence on myYearbook. Why would anyone start a battle in the first place? There are two main reasons: pride and Lunch Money. Establishing an impressive list of wins is a source of pride for many people. And winning a battle earns you a reward in the form of Lunch Money.
But what is Lunch Money and what can you do with it?
myYearbook Lunch Money
The founders of myYearbook came up with a clever idea to encourage people to join the site and visit it often: Lunch Money. Lunch Money is virtual currency. Some of the ways you can earn Lunch Money include creating an account, convincing friends to join myYearbook, completing certain tasks, winning battles and by logging in to the site. You can also earn more Lunch Money by upgrading to a VIP account. These accounts have a monthly fee ranging from $6.99 to $19.99 a month. Each level has additional privileges, including bonus Lunch Money.
What can you do with this virtual currency? You can purchase pictures of other members, adding them to your "owned" list. Other users can purchase your photo as well. As people buy the photos, Lunch Money goes to the person who "sold" the photo as well as to the person who originally uploaded the photo. The site determines photo prices by the user's popularity and the number of times the photo has been "purchased."
You can donate Lunch Money dollars to several different causes ranging from cancer research to funding for humane societies; however, there's a limit to the amount you can donate to each cause per day. You can also use the virtual cash to buy virtual presents for other myYearbook members. The site displays the gifts on the members' profile pages.
The concept of virtual currency isn't a new one -- the virtual world Second Life uses a virtual system called Linden Dollars and other sites like Facebook are experimenting with the idea, too. But myYearbook keeps its model simple. So far, you can't purchase any real-life items with Lunch Money dollars. But you can add some bling to another person's profile or guide the direction of real-world charitable donations.
myYearbook vs. MySpace
For several years in the United States, MySpace was the king of social networking sites. But in recent years, MySpace's growth has slowed while two other sites, Facebook and myYearbook, have grown. Facebook has more than 200 million users and is the new head of the pack when it comes to online social networks in the United States. But myYearbook is steadily growing as well.
Both sites allow users to create free profiles, send messages to other members and link to media like music or videos on their profiles. Both sites act as platforms for games and blog posts. And both allow members to upload photos and customize their profiles in various ways.
In myYearbook's "Our Story" section, the founders describe MySpace as "creepy." Perhaps the founders were alluding to the fact that there are sites like MyDeathSpace that document sordid and tragic occurrences in the lives of MySpace members. Or maybe it's a reference to a story about MySpace removing more than 90,000 profiles belonging to registered sex offenders in the United States [source: The Sidney Morning Herald]. Whatever the motive, it's clear that the founders of myYearbook plan to pull no punches.
Anyone can create a myYearbook account. In other words, nothing is stopping the same "creepy" people from MySpace from joining myYearbook. It's possible the only reason MySpace has had to remove so many accounts is due to how many users it has overall. In fact, there's a major difference in scale. MySpace has over 124 million users to myYearbook's 11 million [source: The Guardian]. But MySpace has been shrinking while myYearbook is growing. It might take a while for myYearbook to gather more members than MySpace but if the trend continues it will happen.
Another difference is in the style of presentation. MySpace's layout uses tabs and pull-down menus in a simple blue and white scheme. The myYearbook style is much more colorful and playful. That might attract more young users but it could hurt myYearbook when it comes to retention. There's a danger that the user base will outgrow the frantic colors and graphics of myYearbook profiles.
Ultimately, myYearbook appeals to a younger crowd. Many of the games, quizzes and applications are focused on appearances and popularity of community members and that just might be the mix the site needs to contend with the larger social networking sites.
Benefits of myYearbook
Why join myYearbook? The first reason is that it allows users to keep up with old friends while making new ones. The various search functions make it simple to find other community members. If the people you're looking for aren't on the service, it's not hard to invite them to join. And remember, if someone accepts your invitation to join myYearbook, you'll be rewarded with bonus Lunch Money.
Another reason to join is to get more involved in charitable organizations. Donating your Lunch Money to a specific cause helps funnel actual money to that cause. And you'll have the opportunity to learn about several charitable organizations, what they do and how you might help. Donating Lunch Money is easy -- but it could also serve as the first step toward an ongoing relationship.
Speaking of relationships, you might even find true love on myYearbook. There's a match service that will randomly pull images of other myYearbook members and present them to you. You can choose to become a secret admirer or go straight to the user's profile and send a message to him or her.
You can also use myYearbook's forums to discuss current events and issues with other members. Topics range from heavy subjects like religion and politics to lighter fare like television programs or sports. The more active you are in the community, the more you'll get out of it.
If you have aspirations to become a journalist, you can write an article and submit it to the site. The myMag section contains articles written by other myYearbook members. It's easy to become an author -- all you have to do is submit your name, a short bio and an image. Once you've registered as an author, you can start writing and submitting articles for publication.
If you're a television fan, you can use myYearbook to watch episodes of several television shows. You can even subscribe to a TV show and have new episodes delivered to your profile page as soon as they become available. The site has a partnership with online video distributor Hulu.
As myYearbook continues to grow and evolve, the founders will likely add more features to the site. As it stands now, myYearbook is a robust community of young users who are growing up in an era of online social networking. It shouldn't come as a surprise that two teenagers were able to pin down what other people in their age group are looking for when it comes to a social network. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.
To learn more about social networking sites like myYearbook and other related topics, look up the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Ashby, Alicia. "MyYearbook Making Millions With Virtual Currency Sales." Virtual Good News. May 15, 2009. (May 22, 2009) http://www.virtualgoodsnews.com/2009/05/myyearbook-making-millions-with-virtual-currency-sales.html
- Ha, Anthony. "Teen entrepreneur Catherine Cook says myYearbook's Lunch Money adds up." VentureBeat. May 13, 2009. (May 22, 2009) http://venturebeat.com/2009/05/13/teen-entrepreneur-catherine-cook-says-myyearbooks-lunch-money-adds-up/
- Lee, Ellen. "Teen's social-networking site a hit with high schoolers." San Francisco Chronicle. July 23, 2007. (May 21, 2009) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/07/23/BUGU1R465P39.DTL
- myYearbook. (May 20, 2009) http://www.myyearbook.com
- Prebluda, Aaron. "Facebook vs. MySpace: Tale of the Tape." Compete. Feb. 26, 2009. (May 21, 2009) http://blog.compete.com/2009/02/26/facebook-myspace/
- Schawbel, Dan. "The Top 10 Social Networks for Generation Y." Mashable. Jan. 30, 2009. (May 21, 2009) http://mashable.com/2009/01/30/generation-y-social-networks/
- Smith, David. "MySpace shrinks as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo grab its users." The Guardian. March 29, 2009. (May 22, 2009) http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/mar/29/myspace-facebook-bebo-twitter
- The Sydney Morning Herald. "MySpace exiles predators from the playground." Feb. 4, 2009. (May 21, 2009) http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/biztech/myspace-exiles-90000-sex-predators/2009/02/04/1233423264383.html