What happened to some of the social media sites of the past?

Posted on July 10, 2018

 

It’s no secret that social media, in particular Facebook, is being embraced by older people, and countless opinions can be found online about how parents and grandparents are taking over social platforms and keeping younger generations away.

However, those who have always lived in the Facebook and Twitter era might be surprised to know that if they consider some of today’s platforms to be no longer en vogue, there were countless other social media sites that fell out of favour when Facebook was still a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye, but what happened to them?

Here are some you may remember, and the stories of their demise:

Friends Reunited

Set up in 2000, Friends Reunited seemed a great bit of fun at first. When I finished my A Levels in 2002, it seemed like the first thing everyone did was go straight to the site to fill in an entry. It was kind of pointless at the age of 18, because everyone’s profile was basically “just finished school as you know, doing some lousy summer job then heading to uni in September, but still living with my parents for now in the same place as I did two months ago”, but it made everyone feel grown up and important.

Friends Reunited was probably the first example of a social media site that was really embraced in the UK, with 2.5 million users within its first 18 months. Then things started to go a little awry, with the introduction of subscription fees, and the site being bought by ITV in 2005.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but when sites like Facebook were clearly rocketing in 2007, it’s difficult to understand why ITV Chairman Michael Grade was still lauding Friends Reunited as “the sweet spot” of the internet that year. In 2009, just four years after acquiring the site, ITV sold Friends Reunited to Brightsolid for £25m – barely a fifth of what it had paid in 2005.

Despite a change of emphasis towards nostalgia in the ‘10s, the site was itself now a thing of the past and was shut down in 2016 – a rather sad end for a once promising and exciting platform.

Myspace

Ah, Myspace – fondly remembered for its loud and busy interface, your friend’s favourite song being blared at you when you visited their profile, and its founder ‘Tom’ being everyone’s friend.

It’s easy to see ‘Tom’, or Tom Anderson to give him his full name, as a slightly comical figure of social media’s past, but he didn’t do badly for himself, netting $580m (£436m) for the site’s sale in 2005.

Perhaps the real source of mockery should be none other than media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp., who shelled out the nine-figure sum but saw their acquisition fail to keep pace with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In 2011, it was sold for a figure reported to be as low as $35m (£26m).

Now owned by Time Inc., Myspace is still hanging in there and maintains a small army of devoted users.

Bebo

Myspace’s move to News Corp in 2005 paved the way for newly founded Bebo to rule the social media roost. Indeed, it briefly overtook Myspace in popularity, and this got AOL excited enough to stump up $850m for the site in 2008, which at the time was about £417m as the Recession was just beginning. Whoops!

At the end of 2014, the original founders of Bebo, husband and wife Michael and Xochi Birch, bought back their creation for a mere $1m (£638K), leaving AOL ruing possibly the most misjudged bit of business the digital era has known.

It’s easy to see these sites as relics of the past, but it should be remembered that they were all extremely popular at one time. Particularly in light of modern day privacy and fake news controversies, their downfalls should act as a reminder to today’s social media giants that they are not irreplaceable.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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