Proto-social network Friends Reunited looks set to capitulate in its battle to make web users pay for services. Owner ITV is considering dropping some subscription fees in an attempt to stop defections to Facebook, Bebo, and other free sites. Friends Reunited currently charges £7.50 every six months for the ability to contact …
FR has no long term point
It's not like it's a proper social networking site (though to be fair, it predates that concept by many years), people use it to make contact, but don't use it on an ongoing basis to actually chat. For that reason I don't see how they're likely to make much money from 'subscribers'. I went on it years ago, read about people, contacted a couple and then that's that, I haven't been back in years and see no reason to.
FR's revenue model has looked extraordinarily shakey for a while now, and they know it. You can usually find ways of circumventing their censoring software which attempts to remove email addresses, references to Facebook, etc from profile entries, and the very fact that they do mangle entries just pisses people off rather than encouraging them to use the site.
Besides which, it doesn't take too much intelligence to compare friends details on FR with details of similarly named people one can find on Myspace / Facebook etc, and then send them an exploratory message to see if they are who you thought they were.
I knew they were in deep shit when I received an email from their site admin asking if I was "having trouble contacting old friends, and that for just £7.50 for six months I could be back online again". I never got a response to my reply that it used to be the same price for 12 months, and that if I wanted help I'd ask for it :-)
As I recall, you don't need to pay to use the site, it's the other buggers who have to pay if they want to annoy you :D
Who uses Friends Reunited?
Why bother when there is facebook? £15 a year.. it used to be £5 for a year which was reasonable..
Greedy buggers.. there time has past
The name seems familiar from about 10 years ago...
For a moment
I read that as gay walls, and was wondering how to disambiguate it.
Friends Reunited are clueless
"you don't need to pay to use the site, it's the other buggers who have to pay if they want to annoy you"
I have had a couple of people try to contact me through FriendsReunited. They have paid to send me the "How are you these days?" message.
For me to reply, I then have to pay as well. So, you DO need to pay to use the site AS WELL AS the other buggers. That strikes me as taking the Mickey. That's why they're going down the pan - excessive greed and not understanding the market.
Right, back to wasting my Friday afternoon reading my free newspaper (El Reg) and networking for free with colleagues (LinkedIn) and looking for a job on the free job ads site (JobServe).
Friends Reunited was great in it's day and a pioneer in social networking terms before the advent of "Web 2.0", but it just didn't keep up with the times.
The site is a shocking mess now in design terms and usability, and other social network sites have displaced it.
Facebook in particular seems to have been adopted by the Brits as the new Friends Reunited even amongst non-students, unlike in the US where it's mainly been a student thing.
Facebook has its weird aspects, but it's not like a teenager's bedroom like MySpace is, and it's a nice clean design, easy to use, and has some nice privacy controls.
What FR needs to do is go with an advertising model and make the site simple and clean, and maybe focus more on the social network side than just a database of friends. Advertising doesn't mean banners all over the place mind. However being ITV owned, garish layout and bold adverts are more likely (like MySpace).
It's not as if...
...the service that FR provides is in any way worth the money. Back when it was free, I signed up and used it to see what my old school and work mates had got up to. But as soon as the FR management came up with the idea of trying to charge for it, I not only stopped using it, but had my details removed altogether.
As a freebie, funded by advertising revenue or whatever other form of third-party financing that they could come up with, it would have been fine. But it wasn't ever something that was sophisticated enough or important enough to me (or to many other folks I suspect) that I would be prepared to pay directly out of my own pocket to have access.
That's the problem with most of the current Web 2.0 shite that's out there. They can be an interesting idea and they offer services that can sometimes be useful for staving off a bit of day-to-day boredom, but most of them don't have enough immediate and direct value to their users that those users would be prepared to pay for it up front.
It's so simple that even I can understand it - if you want to charge for a web-based service of some kind, you've got to start by thinking of a service that people will, in general (or eventually), be prepared to pay for. While a freebie site all dressed up in pastel colours and with rounded borders might generate a lot of interest out there in the blogosphere, you'll only really know if it's got financial legs when you try to charge for it directly and find out whether people are actually prepared to dip into their own pockets for what you're providing.
Ten bazillion free subscribers doesn't mean jack unless you really can convert them to direct paying customers or you have some other rock-solid way to generate revenue off the back of it. Seems like FR falls at both hurdles.
FR was good when it first started. Folks could say what their old school was really like, share memories etc. It was slightly cosy reminiscences and maybe a bit of gentle revenge. It was never a social networking site. That idea hadn't been invented. It was a forum, if anything.
But then they ( the original owners) got nervous or something and took away all the fun bits.
At which point I stopped paying my *£5* a year.