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James Perrin

Friends Reunited Relaunches: Will It Work Though?

27th Mar 2012 News, Social Media 3 minutes to read

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.

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