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10 April 2012

Social network Friends Reunited relaunches

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

Considered one of the grandfathers of social networks, Friends Reunited launched its new beta site on the 27 March, but what now? Can the social network (which first launched in 2000) win back its mojo and win both new and old audiences?


Even seeing a news item on BBC Breakfast that Friends Reunited had relaunched didn’t spur me rush to see what had changed. Back in 2000 it was announced that the husband-and-wife team Steve and Julie Pankhurst had created a unique service, but did it? A similar service had launched in the US a few years earlier, and then Friends Reunited took the initiative for the UK from what remember.


Friends Reunited has had experienced a colourful and turbulent journey; acquired by ITV for a whopping £175 million (with the married team reported to have made £30 million from the deal), but underperformed with the broadcaster. Its inevitable sale from ITV was to online publishing group brightsolid in 2005  for the rather attractive price of £25 million as reported the BBC.


After receiving an email shot (these still seem to work these days), I decided to take a quick look to check out what the site is like and what’s it’s offering. The brand has a new strap line “Remember When?”, which ‘reminds’ me of the newspaper service (The Newspaper Archive as known as Remember When) that sent archived copies of publications when an issue has been missed, or when older original and authentic issues were sought for anniversaries, birthdays and so on. Interestingly, this service also rebranded and is known as gonedigging these days with a range of products to sell.

Introducing the new Friends Reunited

From its press release, the revamped Friends Reunited wisely doesn’t strive to compete with other social networks, but instead is trying to evolve from a reunited old school, college and university friends angle. The obligatory share across the other main social networks an obvious, but necessary wise move critical if it’s going to entice audience the love. Now, it’s appealing to a wider audience with partnerships with The Press Association and photographic archive company The Francis Frith Collection seemingly a perfect fit.


Brightsolid’s history and experience in this space through its archive and genealogy services is impressive. If they’re able to integrate and make the offering they have put into action here – that could see Friends Reunited become a useful service. It may not be a massive hit as it was in its heyday, but should and will be different. If they can ignore the immediate comparison to other social networks and the expectant dizzy subscriber and user numbers that may be pushed at them, they may be OK. It’s a British company in the digital space, so lets hope so.


The evolution of Friends Reunited infographic 2000 to 2012 (and counting)

Categories: Social media, Marketing, Infographics

Tags: Friends Reunited, social network, social networks, social networking, Remember When?, Remember When, brightsolid, The Press Association, The Francis Frith Collection

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