Today one of the UK's most successful internet stories turns 5. Friends Reunited -the British reference of quefuede.com- was created by Julie and Steve Pankhurst in a bedroom of their house. In December 2000 the site had over 3,000 registered alumni and in February 2001 the Pankhursts entered a registration fee of £ 5 and decided to dedicate themselves full time to their project. In August 2001 the site already had one million registered and received 5 million visits daily.
A community of alumni on the rise
Today Friends reunited it has 12 million registered alumni in the UK (which is half of all households with an internet connection) and has launched other sites in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. An average of 5,000 people sign up for Friends Reunited UK every day. There are already numerous anecdotes of a human kind. In 2002, the first wedding was held as a result of a meeting between two old friends gathered through the Web, and in the same year the first baby was born, the result of another reunion between a couple who had been dating at school and had not met. seen in 20 years.
Furthermore, the site has proven to be a valuable resource already routinely used by the British police in criminal investigations and by journalists seeking personal information about characters in the news. It is no longer just a site for old schoolmates to find each other - it has become one of the sites with the most information on the location and habits of a large part of the British population and is one of the largest virtual communities in all the world.
Valuable resource for police investigations
Through information published in personal descriptions on Friends Reunited, the police have managed to locate and convict a bigamist, a pedophile and a drug dealer. The first thanks to a message that he published bragging about his recent wedding with a woman 20 years his junior. His real wife saw the message and contacted the police.
Detectives investigating a teacher suspected of abusing boarding school children said the website had been instrumental in finally convicting the accused. The school had closed years ago, which made it difficult to investigate the police who were convinced of the crimes committed by the accused but lacked evidence. The police posted a message on the school's Friends Reunited forum entitled: "Do you want to tell the police something?" The response from children who had been abused by the teacher was massive, and in 2003 the defendant was found guilty of having committed 54 cases of abuse against children over a period of 15 years.
In another case, the police managed to catch a drug dealer who posted the following message in his personal description on the site: “I'm fine. I sell a lot of “charlie” (slang for cocaine) in Redcar and I have three sports cars ”. He received a 3-year prison sentence.
Resource for journalists
Friends Reunited has also become an important source of information for journalists. For example, after the London bombings earlier this month, journalists used the information posted about the victims registered on the site to learn more about their lives and locate friends and schoolmates.
The use of this large community of former companions is an increasingly common practice in this profession in the attempt to gather information. And the thing is ... we have all been "former students".