The venerable Friends Reunited preps a relaunch

Next Story

Comcast Launches Fancast: Part TV Guide, Part Hulu

UK startups prepping their next social media or social networking site need to be aware of the sleeping (admittedly nearly dead) dragon of Friends Reunited. The biggest “Web 1.0” social network in the UK has been declining for years due to a lack of investment on the part of owners ITV, the TV channel. But now it’s set to undergo a name change as part of a strategic overhaul.

ITV bought Friends Reunited, which was launched by husband and wife Steve and Julie Pankhurst in July 2000, for £120m in December 2005. Then it had 12m users, and had it been managed well would have been the social network in the UK. But MySpace and then Facebook have hit it hard. I logged into it only the other day to find it is still charging for people to connect to eachother! Friends Reunited claims to have 21m registered members across its brands, including genealogy site Genes Reunited, but this is less than half of Facebook’s membership in the UK. And most of those members haveprobably not logged in for years.

According to Brand Republic, ITV is planning to ditch Friends Reunited’s subscription model and associations with ITV (wise move) and make it advertiser-funded. According to Hitwise Friends Reunited was the 14th-most-visited social networking site with a 0.53% share of UK visits last month; Facebook had a massive 22.12% share. Somehow I doubt ITV would consider spinning it out – all the ad growth is online, while ITVs ad revenue have been declining.

  • http://www.dailyack.com/ Alasdair Allan

    The real problem with Friends Reunited was it was so slow. Painfully slow, dreadfully slow. You could hear the hardware creaking as the pages generated.

  • http://davepress.net Dave Briggs

    Name change?

    I would have thought that’s the only thing FR has got going for it. Surely it would be daft to throw that away?

  • Mike Butcher

    Dave Briggs – Very good point. The name has passed into UK folklore. But maybe they think it will ‘refresh’ the idea? More likely they will try to point it in less ‘reunited’ direction. I mean once you’re ‘reunited’ with your old school pals there’s not much else to do is there? (Other than get divorced, as the site is famed for).

  • Dan Field

    Maybe it will be renamed as marriage reunited then? Fix all of the broken marriages they caused? ;)

    Seriously though, I think the biggest problem with the existing site is the UI combined with the fact you had to pay to be able to do anything meaningful with the site…. how many millions of potential “real” members have they lost due to this?

  • http://www.chrisfleming.org/ Chris Fleming

    I think that ITV may have missed the boat here. They could have held a huge amount of ground if they had taken the bold step of making it free to stay in contact and opened things up a bit more.

    However people (from my year/school) have stopped updating there profiles some time ago and it will be hard to get them back.

  • Mike Butcher

    I guess the question is, how many of the emails attached to FR accounts are now dead… My guess is quite a lot.

  • Dan Field

    Mike, definitely….

    If a good number of the email addresses are now dead and they are re-branding… haven’t they just thrown all the value of the business out of the window?

    £120m in December 2005 (Value gone?), + cost of redevelopment and new brand building… that an expensive way of doing things!

  • http://www.chrisfleming.org/ Chris Fleming

    Mike also… for the e-mail addresses that are alive how many of those people are now using another Social Networking site.

    It will be hard to lure users back.

  • http://tioti.com paulpod

    They should just build a nice robust Facebook app to allow people to connect up (re-connect) via that. Friends Reunited-on-facebook would be interesting right now.

  • http://www.jonbounds.co.uk/blog/159/links-for-2008-01-08/ links for 2008-01-08 | jon bounds

    […] Friends Reunited to drop sbscription model? ITV is planning to ditch Friends Reunited’s subscription model and associations with ITV (wise move) and make it advertiser-funded. According to Hitwise Friends Reunited was the 14th-most-visited social networking site with a 0.53% share of UK visits la (tags: socialnetwork freindsreunited advertising) […]

  • http://www.siliconglen.com/news Craig Cockburn

    The friends reunited concept is well past its sell by date. Not only is the concept of charging to contact people quite laughable in the face of the large social networks, but the entire concept of people losing track of one another after leaving high school because they didn’t have email is about as dated as Adam Ant and Culture Club. Since everyone in high school now has email, they are now much less likely to lose contact and need a website to reunite them.

  • http://www.gammatan.co.uk/?p=19 Development : Design : Code » Blog Archive » Could have Friends Reunited been Facebook?

    […] Techcrunch […]

  • http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/07/01/could-friends-reunited-teach-facebook-a-thing-or-two-about-user-privacy-controls/ Could Friends Reunited teach Facebook a thing or two about user privacy controls?

    […] site, which has been through many a revamp itself, most notably after it was sold to the broadcaster iTV for £120m who subsequently offloaded it at a huge loss to […]

  • http://dangos.info/?p=822 Could Friends Reunited teach Facebook a thing or two about user privacy controls? | Loli Knows!

    […] site, which has been through many a revamp itself, most notably after it was sold to the broadcaster iTV for £120m who subsequently offloaded it at a huge loss to […]

blog comments powered by Disqus