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It turned out to be difficult selling the site to a new generation of users, who weren’t growing up knowing what it meant to lose track of friends.ITV eventually sold Friends to Beano publisher DC Thomson for £25m in 2009, but a 2012 redesign was widely disliked. And while its spinoff sites – especially geneology site Genes Reunited – remain popular and profitable, it's still a surprise I wanted to know what it was like to be the creator of a website that was a cultural phenomenon – and why they'd want to try and save it, having walked away almost a decade ago.The first social network to impact on popular consciousness (in the UK, at least) was conceived around a kitchen table in Barnet 15 years ago.
A lot of people at that time, the internet was really big and they’d say, ‘Oh I have an idea for the internet and I can make millions’.
But I guess we knew how to do it.” JP: “We had enough money to pay ourselves for a year, plus 50 grand. Another one was a kind of dating site, a kind of precursor to the speed dating of today.
So the idea was seven grand an idea – if it didn't work, we'd move on to the next one. And the other was Friends Reunited.” SP: “Friends Reunited one was my wife’s idea, Julie, for a number of reasons.
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.
One we’ve never gone public with, because it was a long personal story.