After more than 200,000 posts, the controversial JuicyCampus Web site has said its goodbyes to cyberspace.
But avid college gossips have nothing to worry about. There is at least one new Web site that is poised and ready to corner the market on collegiate dirt. On its blog, JuicyCampus.com passed the "gossip baton" to one site in particular, collegeacb.com.
Collegeacb.com, which stands for the College Anonymous Confession Board, seeks to separate itself from JuicyCampus, saying it "hosts a higher level of discourse -- while still making room for the occasional gossip post."
In its final days, JuicyCampus became a target of what made it successful in the first place: fresh college gossip. This time, students were posting about JuicyCampus itself and, whether they're for it or against it, the debate rages on with each new thread.
Farewell posts on the site numbered in the dozens, with headlines like "Au Revoir JuicyCampus," "JuicyCampus Shutting Down, Thank God," and "Last Day to Gossip." They were coming out of schools from Cornell to Michigan State to Tulane and back again.
From a poignant soliloquy by a University of Tulsa student who refers to himself simply as the 'JC Spammer,' to a short poem by a student at UC Santa Barbara, it seems like everyone has something to say on juicycampus.com.
"JC is done, let's all come clean," one University of Florida student posted. "Post your age, gender, and frat/sorority."
"12 minutes," posted a Duke student. "Until I can go back to my old Internet addictions: porn and that helicopter game."
"Any last things before JuicyCampus closes?" wondered a University of Memphis student. "Any last secrets out there?"
No Shortage of Secrets
A shortage of secrets wasn't the problem at the popular, yet controversial site, according to JuicyCampus founder and CEO Matt Ivester. In an announcement Wednesday, he cited a tough economic climate as the main reason for the shutdown.
"Unfortunately, even with great traffic and strong user loyalty, a business can't survive and grow without a steady stream of revenue to support it. In these historically difficult economic times, online ad revenue has plummeted and venture capital funding has dissolved. JuicyCampus' exponential growth outpaced our ability to muster the resources needed to survive this economic downturn, and as a result, we are closing down the site as of Feb. 5, 2009."
A press release from the new ACB site highlights crucial differences between its site and JuicyCampus. Such features as a user-moderation button allow for concerned students to alert the webmaster to any kind of threatening or illegal post. The release also explains that there are fewer ads and more personalized content.
Few Posts on ACB
So far, it looks like students haven't been biting. Aside from the Weslyan "ACB," we could find few colleges with any posts on the site.
The site is managed by a freshman at Weslyan University in Connecticut.
JuicyCampus surged in popularity last fall, when it expanded to more than 500 colleges across the country. A self-proclaimed platform for free speech, the site took off with anonymous posts running the gamut from "Who has STDs" to "Hottest Professor."
But popularity comes with a price; in this case, more traffic meant more malicious posts and more upset students.
Few know this better than Greg Morrison. We interviewed the Syracuse University senior back in October, when his fraternity was targeted on JuicyCampus. Recently, he was shocked to find his own name among the posts on the Web site.
"The first thing that went through my head," said Morrison, "is whether or not that post was from one of my friends who was just joking around or if it was real. If you want to say what you're going to say, do it in the public eye. Don't hide behind a Web site that is protecting you only because of your anonymity."
Ivester has always stood by his site, and in a recent e-mail to ABC News on Campus he explained, "JuicyCampus is a place where college students can discuss the topics that interest them most, and in the manner that they deem appropriate. I have always encouraged students to use the site responsibly, and to consider the fact that words can hurt."
It was the level of appropriateness that came to bother senior Justin Selle. We interviewed him when JuicyCampus first hit Syracuse University. He says a lot has changed since he first visited the site.
"Initially, I thought the site was interesting," explained Selle. "Some of the stuff on there you sort of had to laugh at. But it turned into a place for comments with all sorts of racist and gender-biased undertones -- and I think people really got turned off by that. It wasn't fun anymore. It became not only boring, but completely inappropriate."
"I think it was fun for a little while," Morrison said, "fun for people to remember what it was like to be in high school, to create rumors and bring other people down. But eventually, the novelty does wear off."
JuicyCampus is certainly no laughing matter now, at least not according to attorney Wendy Murphy. Murphy specializes in sexual harassment and gender specific cases and is currently working with a client victimized by posts on the gossip site.
"I don't have any problem putting the clamps on places like this, any more than I have a problem putting the clamps on people who yell fire in a crowded theater," she said. "I know firsthand how many young women, in particular, have suffered real harm because of what other people are calling a few crude jokes. It just isn't that simple."
Murphy filed her claim -- the first of its kind -- against an unidentified university under Title IX, to the Office of Civil Rights.
JuicyCampus is protected from suits by the Communications Decency Act.
"JuicyCampus has successfully navigated its legal challenges," wrote Ivester. "No charges were ever brought against JuicyCampus by any attorney general. The site is likewise not shutting down as a result of any lawsuits or other sort of legal trouble."
But Murphy is not so sure.
"This is a Web site that has been consistently boasting of huge growth; there are something like 500 universities [on the site]," she said. "And in the midst of boasting they shut down for no apparent other reason except these financial issues. I hadn't heard they were in financial trouble, you know, they certainly didn't go to Washington for a bailout."
No End to Gossip
JuicyCampus might be a thing of the past now, but the issues it brought up won't disappear so quickly. Rumors and gossip run rampant on college campuses, and with sites like the CollegeACB, this dirt will continue to have a home on the Web. Either way, college gossip isn't going anywhere.
"People are going to gossip here either way," said Selle. "They don't need a Web site in order to start that."
"Now that it's gone, I think the damage was done," Morrison said. "But it's a step in the right direction and a step away from the childish nature of adolescence -- and the bull that comes with it."
As for Ivester, he's looking to the future, consulting with startup companies in Los Angeles and brainstorming new Web ideas. And to all those people who wanted the site shut down, he had just one message:
"Cheers. We'll both be drinking tonight (but for different reasons, haha)."