The end of an era: WebSTAC FACES is no longer

| Junior News Editor

After decades of connecting Washington University students, picture-based online directory service WebSTAC FACES has stopped operating due to the rise in popularity of social media.

FACES allowed WashU students and faculty to search for individual students in a database of profiles that consisted of a student’s full name, email address, school division, and student ID photo. In order to find a student profile, searches could be conducted with first or last names, as well as additional search parameters such as school division.

In the first week of March, students could view an update on their WebSTAC homepage which informed them that FACES was going to be decommissioned due to the rise of other social media platforms. By the end of the month, the platform had been taken down for good. 

University Registrar Keri Disch said that taking down FACES had been on the IT Department’s to-do list for several years.  

“A number of years ago,” Disch wrote in an email to Student Life, “knowing that commercial social media functionality and usage was outstripping anything WashU could or maybe should attempt to maintain, IT and my office reviewed this feature with an eye toward what we could decommission to support our journey to replace our core student systems. Since this is not required functionality to support registration or degree progress it was viewed as acceptable to sundown.” 

The most comparable social media platform for an online directory is Instagram, which allows people to easily search for profiles by name to find photos that their peers have posted. 

However, not all WashU students use this platform, including sophomore Ella Brodey, who used FACES often as a way to look people up and remain connected with other students. However, Brodey also believes that FACES serves a unique purpose for everyone, even those who are active on social media. 

“It’s not even used for social media, it’s just a good database to find people,” Brodey said. “If I get paired with someone I don’t know for a group project, I want to see what they look like if I’m meeting them somewhere. A lot of other people don’t have Instagram, so you can’t find everyone on there, but everyone was on FACES.

Brodey said that she used FACES for more than just finding project partners though, recounting a time when she used it to help decorate for a dinner party. 

“My friends and I printed out the FACES photos of everyone who was invited to the party and hung it up on the walls,” Brodey said. “There was just an entire wall covered with people’s student ID photos, we even put them in the bathroom.”

Sophomore Sophia Palitti said that she often used the directory to verify the names of people in her classes, especially when their Canvas profile did not display a photo of them. 

“FACES was so good for people in classes,” Palitti said. “If you were trying to figure out if someone was in your class, FACES had the answer. 

Palitti went on to say that FACES was helpful when trying to reach out to students for projects or questions about class.

“I feel like if you’re trying to contact someone,” Palitti said, “it’s less weird to do it through FACES and find their email than to reach out over social media.”

Although Palitti uses social media, she said she believes the use of ID photos on FACES made it a more equal platform, as opposed to the curated photos that appear on Instagram.

“We need FACES because it’s an equalizer,” Palitti said. “You can choose the photo but it’s an ID photo, it’s usually an average photo of yourself, it’s just exactly what you look like.”

FACES has been helping students meet one another since its inception -– sophomore Jordan Mackie said that her cousin Roshelle Scott, Class of 2004, met her husband because of the platform.

“She had come as a prospective student when she was a senior and [she and her future husband] met then,” Mackie said. “He didn’t get her name and he looked through FACES trying to find her, and eventually he did.”

After hearing that FACES was being taken offline, Mackie told Scott about the news.

“She said it was really sad that FACES was going to go,” Mackie said. “[it’s the] end of an era.” 

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