Friday, 22 January 2016

Friends Re-separated?

I received a rather plaintive email this week, from one of the founders of FriendsReunited, the reunion-based website launched in the UK in 2000. The email had the dramatic heading The Sunset of an Era and was written in rather emotional terms. Here it is:

Hi Susan
In the summer of 2000 we launched FriendsReunited as a method for people to find their old friends from their school days.
The internet was in its infancy and the world was a very different place. Social Networking was not even a term anyone used, but FriendsReunited grew very quickly to become one of the largest sites in the UK.
A lot has happened since.
In 2005 we sold the site and moved on. We watched from a distance whilst other sites came and went but for some, social networking became ingrained in our life and is here to stay.
During that time FriendsReunited declined. Despite efforts to reverse this trend it couldn‘t compete with the giant services like Facebook.
Not long ago I was approached by the FriendsReunited owners, to see if I wanted to take it back and try some new projects with it. It was evident that putting the site back to be more like its original form was not a service people would get excited about using again. The site is still used by a handful of members however it has become clear that the site is no longer really used for the purpose it was built for. For the site to continue it needs a complete re write and this is just not viable.
Therefore, it is with a heavy heart, that we have decided to close the service down. This will commence in the next month, We do recognise that people have a lot of old photos within their profiles on the site. We will therefore provide a link to allow you to login and download your photos. You will be receiveing an email in the coming months with further information on this.
Although FriendsReunited is closing, we are also opening a completely new service called Liife.
Liife is all about capturing key moments in your life - both the past and the present. And then sharing them with just the important people who actually took part in those moments.
There is a lot more to liife than just that though - if you want to register your interest then go to More information will follow.
To read more about the above click here
Steve Pankhurst

In its heyday, before Web 2.0 came along and broke up the party, FriendsReunited was bought by ITV and branched into other media - TV shows, compilation CDs and so on. But once the ubiquitous Facebook started gaining ground, in 2007 or so, the attempts to revive FriendsReunited appeared increasingly desperate. The site was relaunched as a 'memory sharing site' in 2012, trying to capitalise on the human need and interest in nostalgia.

I'm not that saddened by the demise of FriendsReunited. To me it was never really a brand - it was a service that I made use of and moved on. It's telling that Steve Pankhurst talks about it as a 'site'. 

Maybe that was the mistake.

Somehow, FriendsReunited was a brand-in-the-making that never quite made it. The elements - reunion, research, true friendship, nostalgia, memories and maybe even Britishness - could, in the right hands, and with a bit of luck, have built up to a brand that could adapt and survive.


Anonymous said...

This is one big reason I liked the site; the Britishness, as well as the fact that they don't sell your info unlike Farcebook. If it were Farcebook that was shutting down, I wouldn't be bothered at all.

Sue Imgrund said...

I really think they could have done something with that - used the advantage they had over Farcebook!

Barbara Fisher said...

Hello Sue, I can honestly say FriendsReunited and I rather passed one another by – I always intended to go and have a nose around but never did. Facebook is useful for sharing photographs, but I could happily live without it.
Thank you for coming over and welcoming me back – I really appreciated it. Barbara