Friends Reunited – one of the original social network sites – is to close, one of its original founders has confirmed.

Steve Pankhurst said the site was still used by some, but is “no longer used for the purpose it was built for.”

Friends Reunited website

The site launched in the year 2000, and was bought by ITV for £175m in 2005 – reaching more than 10 million users globally. However, its popularity has suffered due to the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. Mr Pankhurst said the decision to shut the site, which he had reacquired from comic publisher DC Thompson, came because it could no longer cover its own costs.

“I knew it was near impossible to reboot something that was old and in decline,” he said, describing user numbers as “a handful”. Facebook meanwhile, currently has around 1.4 billion active users.

According to Mr Pankhurst and business partner Jason Porter, the site had become just a “messageboard” for the few users who remained.

“And I also realised, that of the 10m+ users registered, a lot had done so over a decade ago and hence their contact details were out of date.” he said.

Friends Reunited website

“So even if you were coming to the site to find someone and wanted to contact them, how frustrating it must be to see them listed there and try to contact and then get no response.

“Therefore, whilst it’s sad, I believe it’s time to move on and put Friends Reunited to bed.”

Mr Pankhurst added that he now plans to launch a new service Liife, a platform for users to plot the key moments of their lives, but only with those they shared them with rather than a wider audience.

Founder Steve Pankhurst wrote to all registered users stating “the internet was in its infancy and the world was a very different place” when the site began.

He said: “Social Networking was not even a term anyone used, but FriendsReunited grew very quickly to become one of the largest sites in the UK.

A lot has happened since.

“In 2005 we sold the site and moved on. We watched from a distance while other sites came and went but for some, social networking became ingrained in our life and is here to stay.

“During that time FriendsReunited declined. Despite efforts to reverse this trend it couldn’t compete with the giant services like Facebook.

“Not long ago I was approached by the FriendsReunited owners, to see if I wanted to take it back and try some new projects with it.

“It was evident that putting the site back to be more like its original form was not a service people would get excited about using again.

“The site is still used by a handful of members however it has become clear that the site is no longer really used for the purpose it was built for. For the site to continue it needs a complete re write and this is just not viable.

“Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we have decided to close the service down. This will commence in the next month.

“We do recognise that people have a lot of old photos within their profiles on the site. We will therefore provide a link to allow you to login and download your photos.

“You will be receiving an email in the coming months with further information on this.”

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