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(Credit: Kawee Wateesatogkij / iStockphoto)

On the first day of school in many college classes, professors will ask their students to pick two people to exchange contact information with. It's an anxiety-ridden nightmare for some, but it's true that having someone's email or cell can be useful in a pinch if you forget the homework or if there's a test on Friday.

The Islands College Chat app (iOS, Android) thinks it can make things better. It works like Slack does for workers, with a dash of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. The company is betting that messaging is the future of social media. But ahead of the 2017-2018 school year, Islands also recently added a student directory of all the users on a campus who are using the app. This makes it easier for users to reach out to each other--whether it be for homework help, study sessions, or a lunch date.

To use Islands, users download the app to their smartphone and sync it to their social media account for identity verification and college location. The colorful apps allow users to create groups, or islands, based on topics of interest--those can be anything from Spanish class to basketball.

The app uses geofencing to connect groups within five miles of campus. Within the "islands," users with similar interests can chat.

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The app's developer, Greg Isenberg, monitored what was most popular on other social media sites.

"We launched Islands and our thesis was the group chats are the new social network," Isenberg told Axios.

Isenberg's team began slowly rolling the app out to certain universities and colleges. In September 2017, the app was active on seven campuses. By next month, the company hopes 75 campuses will have access to the app.

"We've got thousands of people who have requested to join the app, but we are doing a very targeted rollout similar to Facebook back in the day," he told VentureBeat.

Isenberg estimates that with the current usage on active campuses of 5-25 percent, with each user inviting two students onto the app, the thousands of messages sent daily on the app will climb into the millions when Islands is at every campus.

Isenberg also has bigger plans for Islands than just college campuses. He hopes to make it accessible to everyone.

"The goal ultimately is to become the de-facto tool for everyone," he said. "Once we've saturated college we'll have to figure out what's next."

But would that lessen the app's uniqueness? While Isenberg said most students aren't familiar with Slack, expanding the speciality app too much might make it very similar to Slack or GroupMe.

The majority of Islands marketing and promotion centers around its iOS app, with Android being neglected--and the reviews show it. The app holds a 3.5 out of 5 rating in the Apple App Store and a 2.4 out of 5 in the Google Play Store.

"Major changes coming in 2018, sorry we've fallen behind on our Android releases. Thank you for your patience and keep your eyes out for an update," the company said in the Google Play Store in April of 2018.

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(Credit: Screenshot by Download.com)


Takeaways

  1. The Islands College Chat app helps students connect on campus, whether it be for homework help, missed work in class, study sessions, or hanging out.
  2. The app is like a mix of Slack and Snapchat. The recent update of a student directory has made finding users and connecting easier.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's Download.com. She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Louisville.com. Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.