Friends Reunited – are they losing touch?

There was an interesting piece in The Independent on Saturday about the decline of Friends Reunited, the find-a-schoolfriend website that was once hugely popular but is now apparently something of a has-been.

FR was one of the earliest social networking sites – conceived in July 1999 even before the dot-bomb collapse of many of the early Internet start-ups, and launched in the summer of 2000. Initially a free service, it started charging subscription fees for premium services within its first year but still managed to grow rapidly to a million users and beyond. When ITV bought it in December 2005, it was considered by them to be worth £175 million.

Since then, it’s all turned a bit sour. Other social networking models have started to get in on the act, notably Facebook and MySpace, with a strong emphasis on photo galleries, videos and Twitter-like tweeting and messaging facilities. FR’s decision last March to switch from a subscription revenue model to one based on advertising looks to have come too late to restore its dominant position, certainly among younger users – though it may still have a role for those who prefer a more discreet service to Facebook’s in-your-face approach.

Anyway, The Independent reckons that ITV may decide whether to keep or ditch Friends Reunited next month. We’ll see.