We’d play around with bits and pieces, and it was really the advent of the internet that gave us the chance to try things out.” Steve Pankhurst: “We went freelance in the early 90s, but it was very boring, writing databases for insurance and pensions companies.
This was when the internet was really in its first boom, so we packed that job in with the idea of trying out some internet ideas.
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So here, in their own words – and those of Michael Murphy, the CEO who took it from a bedroom in Barnet to a multi-million pound brand – is the story of Friends Reunited: Jason Porter: “We met working together at Bovis Construction [now Lend Lease], way back in the day.
We were programmers, [but] we always had this entrepreneurial spirit, you know, always coming up with ideas, making stuff for people.
Social networking was not even a term anyone used, but Friends Reunited grew very quickly to become one of the largest sites in the UK.” It did. In a newly technological era where no one, not even JR Hartley, used the phone book anymore, it took full advantage of the internet's ability to shrink the world until it was within everyone's grasp, and for a few years it managed, organised and compartmentalised our collective memory.
Suddenly, all of us were revisiting old pals, if not to reconnect then to snoop.
In 2009 the website was sold to DC Thomson for just £25 million.
Then, in 2012, Friends Reunited was rebooted as "memory box".
The newspapers of the time were filled with stories of jilted husbands and wives blaming the site for their divorce, and at its height, in 2007, Friends Reunited claimed 55 per cent of all British adults were members.
Yet few of its users were active users (unlike then-surging Facebook's), and 2007 was when growth slowed – by March 2008, when the site responded by removing its subscription fee, active user numbers had already dramatically fallen.
In the same week it was announced that the cast of Friends would be at least partially reuniting for television, the website Friends Reunited announced that it would be closing.