R.I.P. Friends Reunited
School reunion website Friends Reunited has been shut down. Or should that be permanently excluded? The final school bell has rung.
In the days when accessing the internet for many still involved firing up the modem and popping off for a cup of tea, Britain was briefly obsessed by Friends Reunited. Conceived in 1999, long before Facebook, it was many Britons' first dip into the tricky waters of social media.
For those too young to remember, you added your school and year of leaving on the site, then marvelled at the list of classmates you'd long since forgotten.
Before Friends Reunited, attempting to track down former schoolmates involved, well, tracking them down. The prospect of perusing the electoral roll and interrogating mutual acquaintances was too much and too undignified for many. Suddenly, all it took was one click to find out that the mean kid who used to kick your violin case and made your life hell in primary school was now making his second million (at which point a little of you died) or, alternatively, had just gone bankrupt (admit it, you smiled at this point).
There was an art to reading the biographies people left. "I've tried my hand at a number of things since school" meant "I've never kept a job very long". "Still managing to avoid being tied down" meant "I've been single for a very, very long time". There were also the posters who made a bridge-burning statement about their schooldays, along the lines of "You all made my lives hell, but now I'm beautiful and rich and YOU'RE THE LOSERS!"
People started to track down teenage crushes. Soon the newspapers were bemoaning the site's supposed effect on divorce statistics. The most high-profile example reported in the papers was goalkeeper David James who left his wife and reconnected with a former flame. The ability to leave comments about old ill-remembered teachers also caused trouble. In 2002 a retired teacher won libel damages over a Friends Reunited comment.
Friends Reunited's time in the sun was very brief. By the time it was sold to ITV in 2005, many users on the site had already realised there was a reason why they hadn't stayed in touch with their schoolmates. Facebook would soon eclipse Friends Reunited (and much else besides).
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