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Whether you're about to start a class, or just looking ahead to registration for next semester, knowing what to expect from the professor can help relieve your first-day anxiety and provide insight on how to approach the class. The social networking Web site gives you access to more than 6.8 million student-generated professor ratings on more than one million professors from colleges across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Like many social networking Web sites, you can access RateMyProfessors from your Web browser and use its services free of charge. This includes reading any of the professor ratings posted, even if you don't register for an account.

RateMyProfessors has enjoyed continued growth in popularity since John Swapceinski founded it in 1999. Swapenceinski, a software engineer from Menlo Park, Calif., sold the site to Baltimore Solutions, Inc., in late 2005. New owners Patrick Nagle and Will DeSantis weren't new to managing social networking sites, having created an online textbook trading site when they were in college. When Nagle and DeSantis moved to Viacom MTV Networks in early 2007, they took RateMyProfessors with them, relocating its headquarters to New York. Now, RateMyProfessors is part of mtvU, a collection of social networks, entertainment news, contests and articles targeted toward college students.

As on other social network Web sites, you'll find sponsors' advertisements on each page at MTV Networks itself sometimes advertises its upcoming shows on the RateMyProfessors main page alongside other mtvU videos. For potential advertisers, RateMyProfessors reports that it has 9 million users, of which 75 percent are students, 56 percent are female, and 86 percent are within the 18-35 demographic [source: RateMyProfessors].

In this article, we'll look at the rating system at RateMyProfessors and see how it compares to professor feedback on other social network Web sites and online communities.