With quite some surprise this week, I had an email from Steve Pankhurst, the founder of FriendsReunited/ GenesReunited to confirm that the site will finally be shut down.
To be honest, I thought it had been shut down years ago - but what struck me was how co-dependant our relationship with online service providers has become.
Like millions of other users, I had forgotten about FriendsReunited - consequently, I hadn't logged into the site in years. While the data had perhaps some value, without an active user base - the site (or rather - the business) died.
Today, I rely on Linked-In to manage my business contacts and Facebook to manage my personal ones. At time of writing, they are ubiquitous - and so hugely valuable to me (and their owners)! But what would happen if Facebook, for example, made some bad business decisions and went into bankruptcy tomorrow? How would I retrieve all my friends contact details, and what about pictures, videos and other data that is stored on their servers?
Steve Pankhurst now plans to launch another social network called LiiFe. I wish him well with this venture, and hope he makes a success out of it. I wonder too whether people will be writing obituaries for Facebook and Linked-In a decade from now, and whether our interest in these communities will have drifted to new platforms, perhaps Steve's new one? I wonder too how long before we learn not to rely on third-parties to hold our data - and those designing social networking sites do so with data permanence in mind?
The answer might be some sort of peer-2-peer social network, a Blockchain-Facebook, perhaps?
Liife is on no way a replacement for FriendsReunited — they are completely different products. FriendsReunited has had its day — it’s time to move on to a new Liife.