Facebook, we all know now, started in a college. Through very, very targeted growth, it expanded beyond that, until now it encompasses the whole world. Or at least most people you know between the ages of 13 and 50.

But is there a way to make it exclusive again?

According to an article by Megan Garber in The Atlantic:

[Wednesday] Facebook announced Groups for Schools, a service that will “allow people with an active school email address to join groups at their college or university.”

Yes! 2004 called, and would like its social network back.

[Two things are notable about the announcement — beyond, that is, the back-to-the-future irony of it all. First, there’s Facebook’s apparent attempt at reclaiming the insularity that made TheFacebook so great: Between the Groups for Schools news and this week’s Instagram acquisition, the network seems to be seeking new ways to marry scale and intimacy. Groups for Schools is an initiative in the Google+ model of social sequestration: It uses sub-groups — like Google+’s “circles” — to create smaller spaces within the huge, buzzing sphere that is all your digital acquaintance. The return to email-address-constrained groups suggests an acknowledgement that Facebook-the-institution stands to benefit from intimacy in the same way that Facebook-the-university-based-social-network did. I wouldn’t be surprised if the network rolls out similar groups for companies and other groups.

It’s probably not too big a deal, but this latest development represents a remarkable step in the growth of an idea.

When it gets too big to be cool, it becomes profitable. When it gets too profitable to be cool, Facebook simply reproduces elements of the original concept, nestled within the monster that’s developed from it.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer