Before Facebook, we had to find our friends on FriendsReunited, a very successful UK site that achieved critical mass but had one flaw: users had to pay to communicate with each other. It only struck me now that there’s something a little unethical about that.
Take, for example, what just happened to me: someone I haven’t seen or heard from in more than 35 years just got in touch via Friends Reunited (one advantage of the site is you can list the schools you attended right down to primary level).
Needless to say, it’s great to hear from him and I’d love to reply, but now I balk at the £7.50 ($15) I have to pay to do so. FriendsReunited lets you list your details there, but controls the communications between you, a little like LinkedIn.
But whereas with LinkedIn the communications are not controlled in a way that leaves the other person hanging; this old school chum now has no idea whether
- I’ve received the message
- I have any interest in communicating with him
unless I cough up the $15.
Of course, you could argue there’s no price on getting in touch with old friends. To which I would say, why should a company tell me what that price is? Now my old school chum is hanging there, uncertain whether I want to get back in touch.
Needless to say, I’ve tried to find out an email address or contact number through other channels, and maybe I’ll get lucky. So far nothing; FriendsReunited, like Facebook, both helped to extend the social networking model beyond the normal early adopter range, so not everyone on it has a big web footprint outside those walled gardens.
But if Facebook has changed nothing else, I suspect it’s altered our perception of community websites: from now on we expect to be able to find and connect with old friends on them, and if we have to pay to do that our interest wanes. Have to pay to contact a friend? Isn’t that a bit Web 1.0?
PS: Simon, if you’re out there, email me 🙂