When most people think of social media, they think of big tech companies from Silicon Valley in the USA. There was once a kind of German Facebook: SchülerVZ. Today, however, the platform no longer plays a role.
People approaching their 30s today probably get teary-eyed just reading the name. At the end of the 2000s, SchülerVZ was one of the really big social media platforms in Germany. At peak times, five million teenagers romped around on SchülerVZ every day. With almost seven million German-speaking schoolchildren at the time, the platform accounted for a little more than 70 percent. A real German giant in the early days of social media. So why was SchülerVZ buried so quickly in 2013?
StudentVZ follows StudiVZ
Basically, Mark Zuckerberg intended to make Facebook a platform like the SchülerVZ was. Originally, the Facebook founder pursued the idea of developing a kind of online yearbook so that schoolchildren and students could exchange information about their everyday high school life. Then the idea got bigger. In the meantime, grandma and grandpa are also sending friend requests to their relatives.
The history of SchülerVZ begins in 2005. That was when the StudiVZ platform was launched. As the name suggests, an exchange platform for students. Due to the rapid success of this university network, the organizers are trying to transfer the format to German schools. Which, for understandable reasons, initially involved a great deal of effort.
Also read: StudiVZ and meinVZ are finally going offline
Platform connects teenagers
Not only in Germany, but in principle, the target group is problematic and deserves special protection due to its age. It’s true that in the mid-2000s there weren’t any smartphones, which young people now use to be connected to the whole world 24/7. However, even then, parents no longer had a clear overview of what their pupils actually do in their free time on their home PCs.
That’s why the makers of SchülerVZ have an ingenious idea, which certainly explains the success of the platform. So that the young target group can interact with as much protection as possible, there is an upper age limit of 21 years. All profiles that have exceeded this mark have been automatically removed.
In February 2007, after a long beta phase, the time had come. SchülerVZ officially opens its doors. Almost a year later, in January 2008, SchülerVZ announced 2.7 million users with over 100 million hits. At the time, one can conclude from this that every member logs on to SchülerVZ once a day on average. Facebook? Completely irrelevant, at least among the German student body.
SchülerVZ is the German Facebook
The success of German Facebook can only be explained in retrospect and under the circumstances of the time. Being online all the time was not yet possible for a variety of reasons. Logging in via PC and seeing who happened to be online on the platform at the time caused many members’ hearts to pound.
Finally, SchülerVZ offers the possibility of simply writing to the flame from the parallel class or the cute guy from the upper school via messenger message. No more embarrassing playground situations and certainly a major reason why some former members of the platform feel a lot of nostalgia.
In order to get in contact with each other, the creators have implemented a popular function from StudiVZ in SchülerVZ: the creeping. The meaning of this made-up word can best be compared to “to poke someone”. And that’s what more and more students did back then.
The platform also supports the exchange with useful functions. Because the members are automatically connected to each other via the school they attend. Normally, therefore, it was not even necessary to speak up.
In addition, there are many other useful functions on SchülerVZ for exchanging photos or files with one another, for chatting with one another, or for joining or opening groups on specific topics.
Also Read: Properly Securing Your Kids’ Homeschooling Laptop
SchülerVZ misses the connection
Even if the makers have already worked very carefully in advance on the subject of youth protection, like all social networks, there will be the first “data protection scandals” at SchülerVZ at some point. In 2009 and 2010, massive data leaks became public. SchülerVZ keeps improving.
However, the effort to make the platform secure in accordance with German data protection and youth protection law is eating up more and more time and money. At the same time, the importance of Facebook is increasing with the increasing number of smartphones. SchülerVZ gets problems. The downward spiral begins to turn faster and faster.
Many members are leaving the platform and pitching their tents with the ever-growing US competitor Facebook. The accounts at SchülerVZ will initially remain in place, but the activities on the platform will continue to decrease. As a result, SchülerVZ loses large advertising customers.
The history of the student network ended in 2013
At some point, the declining number of users in connection with lower income and constantly increasing costs are no longer compatible with economic operation. Although the makers are still trying everything to prevent the sinking. In 2013, SchülerVZ pulls the ripcord. On April 30, 2013 the history of SchülerVZ ends.
In the end, SchülerVZ resembles a zombie landscape with just 200,000 members. What remains is the memory of a German social media era with the three VZ networks StudiVZ, SchülerVZ and meinVZ with a total of 17 million members at peak times. Much more important than bare numbers: For most 30-year-olds, SchülerVZ will always remain a short but overall beautiful part of their youth.