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Friends Reunited Relaunches: Will It Work Though?

James Perrin

by James Perrin on 27th March 2012

Today is the day that Friends Reunited, the first UK social network, relaunches. The former social networking giant has given itself a lick of paint, and a whole new feel to it, focussing on nostalgia and memories.

What’s difficult to believe is that Friends Reunited, which launched in 2000, was the UK’s first social network and went on to become one of the most popular too; in 2005 it boasted over 15 million users. Then the MySpace’s and the Facebook’s of this world took off, and the rest as they say is history. However, Friends Reunited is back, but will it work?

Cast Your Minds Back

At the turn of the millennium, for anyone that wanted to get in touch with old school friends, or people you knew as you were growing up, Friends Reunited was the place to go. It was the gimmick of being able to get in touch with old friends that made it so successful, and loads of people were on it because of this.

At its height, it was sold to ITV for £175 million. However, it could not keep apace with more technologically advanced social networks like MySpace and Facebook, and so many of its users began to come off and join rival sites. It was sold 4 years later to an online publishing group called Brightsolid (owners of Genes Reunited and Findmypast) for just £25 million. A substantial loss by anyone’s books, not that the previous owner, Steve Pankhurst probably minds; after initially selling up to ITV, he became one of the first dot-com millionaires.

Nostalgic Journey

With that all in the past, Brightsolid aimed to look forward with this new look Friends Reunited. So what’s different? More interactivity? A better look and feel, brining it in line with Facebook? Well, not exactly. By moving forward, Friends Reunited is once again looking at the past.

The new site has a scrapbook based feel to it, where there is plenty of nostalgia and ‘remember when’ moments. All of this has been made possible using the power of images. Friends Reunited have teamed up with the Press Association and Francis Firth Collection to make 350,000 photos available to users. The idea is that these pictures will spark memories, and users can share these with others as a basis for interaction.

Will It Work?

Well, there is a running theme here. Friends Reunited lost its share of the market on the basis that it couldn’t keep up with the likes of Facebook, and at the time, MySpace because they had better technology in place. In other words, this means that you could do so much more on these platforms.

It appears that Friends Reunited hasn’t gone down this route. To some extent, it would be insane to try and replicate a social network like Facebook, so it appears they haven’t tried. Instead they’ve stuck to what they know, and in fairness have provided a great gimmick to get people back onto their site. It’s not exactly something new, but it does offer user’s a platform on which they can share memories.

However, users may only head back on once or twice just to see what other people’s memories were of similar events. Taking a trip down memory lane is something we do from time-to-time, and not necessarily something we do every day. However, is this a generational thing? For younger audiences, who don’t mind being bombarded with messages, Facebook and Twitter is fine, for others, a simpler platform with minimal information may be the way forward, and the new Friends Reunited certainly offers this.

It’s simpler and sleeker. There’s a real focus on privacy, and users can either make their posts public, or to just their contacts. Whilst it might seem primitive in terms of what you can do, I’m guessing that’s the whole point. In this sense, we may see more people, who don’t necessarily like the way Facebook is so intense with its messaging, to come off and switch to Friends Reunited.

Facebook has been known to not sit well with older users, so do we expect the new look Friends Reunited to attract older users? What are your thoughts? Please share below in the comments section.

James Perrin

James Perrin

Content Marketing Manager, James Perrin is a regular contributor to the Koozai blog. Well experienced in sales and marketing, James also has a passion for journalism and media, especially new media. From the latest industry related new stories to copywriting advice, James will provide you with plenty of digital marketing information.

12 Comments

  • John Waghorn

    John 27th March 2012

    Nice post James, I think it’s interesting to see Friends Reunited going for the relaunch. I always think of it as an older site for the older generations and it will have to fight hard to claim a decent stake in the social world.

    Facebook and Twitter are so popular these days and younger generations grow up with these networks in place, although I guess there is no harm in Friends Reunited trying to establish their place in the market once again. If anything, they provide an alternative to some of the more popular social networks available.

    Reply to this comment

  • Dean Marsden

    Dean 27th March 2012

    Friends Reunited really needs to capture the middle aged audience and I think the new site is well designed but seems nothing more than a photo-sharing website. But then again, who doesn’t like looking at old photos?! The future of Friends Reunited could be in the past.

    Reply to this comment

  • James Perrin

    James 28th March 2012

    Thanks for the comments. I think you’re both right, they’ve looked at the past in order to move forwards. I think the ‘older’ generations or those who like a far more simplistic social network will take to Friends Reunited a lot more than Twitter and Facebook. I highly doubt it will ever achieve the success it once achieved, or topple the social media giants, but it does provide a great alternative.

    Reply to this comment

  • Michael Rolfe

    Michael 28th March 2012

    There is a lot of money in branded social media sites. As far as i know, this one sold for £175 in 2005 to ITV, who then sold it for £25m in 2009, and it may have been through a few more hands before being relaunched as we see it today. Seems more like Pinterest with their ‘memory boxes’, but without the user generated content! I would imagine they will launch an offline PR offensive to capture older UK users off the back of the rebrand and then sell, sell sell asap on the back of Facebook IPO hype.

    Reply to this comment

  • Alec Sharratt

    Alec 30th March 2012

    I think friends reunited is doomed! Facebook has this whole market covered… If you want to get in touch with someone, do you pick up a Thomson local or the phone book? Nope, you check Facebook, if they aren’t on that, well then maybe you would check other sites. Will be interesting to see how they fair though as it might give some signals as to how much space there is in the market for new social sites of this ilk.

    Reply to this comment

  • Adrian Poyner 1st December 2012

    I think that it is a shame that Friends Reunited decided to change in such a drastic way, I was so happy with it because of the street search, people search, schools etc. they changed without telling people and suddenly my account was not recognized and a lot of contacts were gone.
    All I can say is that I find it sad that they did this and now I am looking for another such site, Facebook is not everything, friends Reunited was in my opinion better but can better just stop now as it is ruined.

    Reply to this comment

  • James Perrin

    James Perrin 3rd December 2012

    Hi Adrian, thanks for commenting. Whilst it is a shame, I think there are some good platforms out there other than Facebook. Additionally, as the market gets bigger I think you’ll find different platforms appealing to different markets. I think this will help massively for those that do not like or use Facebook per se.

    Reply to this comment

  • Adrian Poyner 3rd December 2012

    Thank you for your reply, I am still of the opinion that Friends reunited was better before the relaunch and could have just changed a few things for the better keeping the core of the site as it was. I have found a few friends from 30 and 40 years ago on Friends Reunited but since the change have lost them again.
    I find it a shame and sad.

    Regards.

    Reply to this comment

  • Phillip Holland 20th August 2013

    I read your comments re FR but they are in the same vane as the dunderheads who relaunched the site. You are all forgetting several key points. The old site was very easy to use, new one is unintelligible. The site was used by all ages to find old friends hence the name, the new one doesn’t even start. When on the old sight you searched for someone, the info you could input of the person sought you were confident they could easily be found if registered, the new site doesn’t and don’t quote Facebook as you end up with people from Alaska to Australia. Finally the old site was for those who not as you would say brought up to the twiter of life and IT WAS ENGLISH not the world breaking all beautiful USA which allowed it to be loved by a faithful band. Read the comments people have left on the site the old way allowed a £175 m sale, how much is it worth now .

    Reply to this comment

    • pwd 21st February 2014

      I think the “upgrade” is dreadful.

      Much harder to search for old friends and frankly the site is virtually useless in its present form.

      Reply to this comment

  • Adrian Poyner 20th August 2013

    SAD, FR was a as you say easy to use site and when I started it was not free, it was not expensive but you did pay for using the service, I did not mind paying because it did help me find old friends so it was worth it but sorry to say it is no longer worth using, all the friends that I found are now lost again and as far as I am concerned Friends Reunited can better stop.
    Sad sad sad.
    Adrian.

    Reply to this comment

  • Adrian Poyner 24th February 2014

    Question like what is it worth now are easily answered, Friends Reunited sold for a lot and is now worthless.
    As I said before the old system was in my opinion very good at first it was for a small fee then it was free, go back to the old system and charge a small fee but lets have our truster Friends Reunited back.

    Reply to this comment

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