A screenshot of the GrinellPlans interface (2016).

GrinnellPlans is a private, virtual community for Grinnell College students and alumni. Plans is a text-based, no-frills social networking platform that began in the fall of 2000 as an outgrowth of the then-discontinued VAX UNIX system's finger program. It is widely used by the Grinnell community but virtually unknown outside of it.

What is Plans?

As described by Cat Pierro:

"Plans is a text-based, image-free, no-frills social media platform that’s older than Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter—older even than LiveJournal and MySpace. It’s an open source project that was developed by Grinnell students. The College shut it down in 2003, but students rebuilt it at grinnellplans.com, outside the administration’s purview. 

History of GrinnellPlans

In the late 90s, Grinnell students, faculty and staff used a VAX computer system that allowed users to create ".plan" files which other users could read by using the finger program. The frequent updating of user .plan files created a little ad hoc social network:

"Plans were where the members of the Grinnell College community aired their thoughts and feelings, passive-aggressively fought with one another, kept tabs on one another, peeked into the inner worlds of their fellow classmates, and discussed issues. Some plans had little quizzes on them, some had pictures made of text, some had poetry, some had little recorded conversations." --Cat Pierro

In the summer of 1999, Grinnell shut down their VAX systems and moved to a web-based email program. Without the VAX system, there were no more Plans updates. In the fall of 2000, Rachel Heck started a web-based Plans system, which was running in various forms on Grinnell College servers until the summer of 2003, when the Grinnell administration shut it down. Plans was then migrated to a non-Grinnell commercial web host where it remains today.