The venerable Friends Reunited preps a relaunch

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.