Are nostalgic memories enough to save Friends Reunited?
Relaunch could crack the middle-aged market – but some say the site should admit defeat
PIONEERING social network Friends Reunited, whose popularity has slipped to the point where only 1.5m of its 20m registered users visit the site in a month, has re-launched today in a bid to regain its past glory.
The service that helped people reconnect with their old school pals, and was bought by ITV in 2005 for £175m, has floundered in the shadow of Facebook, which boasts more than 850 million members.
When ITV offloaded FR to Brightsolid for a mere £25m in 2009, critics questioned whether it was time to put the site out of its misery.
Today's relaunch sees a new sense of purpose. Users can still reconnect with old friends, but the main focus is on providing them with a place to collect and keep their nostalgic 'memories'.
As The Daily Telegraph reports, photographs can be uploaded to 'personal keepsafe boxes', which can be public, shared or private – privacy settings much less complicated than those found on Facebook.
Users also have access to more than 10 million images to collect and share, an archive partly provided by the Press Association. Images of landmark events, such as women getting the vote or the Silver Jubilee, can be stored alongside personal pictures in the 'keepsafe boxes'.
Will it work? Some analysts have told econsultancy.com they are sceptical. Others believe the relaunch could appeal to the over-40s.
Max Tatton-Brown, a consultant at EML Wildfire, points out the similarities between Friends Reunited and Facebook's new timeline redesign. But he asks: "What happens when your Facebook page is five, ten, fifteen years old? That's a fundamental clash that will be really difficult to overcome, especially when you consider that they are overlapping so clearly with core Facebook functionality."
Aisling McCarthy, senior account director at We Are Social, says: "With the popularity of platforms such as Pinterest and Tumblr; I just don't see Friends Reunited getting a look in. I'd like to see it prove me wrong – but sadly, I don't think it'll be too long before the site admits defeat for the last time."
Joanna Wiggins, editor of ASOS Marketplace, was more positive. "By taking the focus off the Facebook ethos of 'this is who I am' and instead stressing 'this is what we did', Friends Reunited may be able to not only attract older, first-time sharers but also those who are increasingly 'over' confusing Facebook privacy terms."
Jon Silk, from digital PR firm Waggener Edstrom, says: "If Friends Reunited gets the interface and financial model right, it could crack the middle-aged market wide open, and do very well out of it."