Techscape: Friends Reunited and the embarrassment of riches
The Register , 28.09.05
By Bill Robinson
Overpaid and overpriced
Rant It is a sweet concept, isn't it? Rekindling old friendships. Rejoining old flames. Reconnecting people who used to care about each other so much.
We simply must have a place to go to find long-lost pals, for without such a place our lives will be meaningless and hollow. It's all so 90s sensitive, so warm and fuzzy, and so important to society that we could never survive without it.
Is it really, though?
Of course not.
It's so sickly-sweet that I may projectile vomit.
And nobody harbors these overwhelming feelings of empathy and compassion about FU (as I will now refer to it) in the "Internet space". They only care about valuations, dilutions, rachets and what the investment bankers are taking for themselves.
They only get all teary-eyed when the negotiations start and the projections about member data are rolled out.
Why should we, the "consumers" in this case, look at an FU sale as anything other than it is: a way for a News Corp. or eBay to get inside our lives and then relentlessly market us any old crap they might have on offer at that moment?
This is unacceptable by any standards, if there was any altruism involved in the founders' motives originally, it's now a thing of the past.
And let's make sure to factor in things such as the divorce, heartache and headlines like "Man stabs long-lost Friends Reunited mate 7 times" that FU has caused when we begin assigning a valuation to this hot property, shall we?
Fiends Reunited anyone?
100 million pounds?
Pardon me while I gag.
First it is "valued at" £120 million, now it's £100m; perhaps if we wait a little longer it'll go down to 50p and a cup of Starbuck's coffee. Then (here's a great "strategic initiative" for them), the new owner can hire a bunch of leaflet-distributors and sandwich-sign-wearers to "drive eyeballs" to the FU site.
And even the magnificent 12 million users FU claims is not enough to warrant a buy-out by a big Media or Tech corporation. Over-paying has become the order of the day and the results are entirely predictable: another Tech sector crash.
Let's all remember: It's a small company which says it is "expected" to make £6.5m this year. Maybe I'm daft, but how in the world can this kind of implausible profit estimate justify an insane premium purchase price like that? (Unless of course, the buyer plans to totally invade every FU member's life with direct-marketing offers of a ridiculous nature. And unfortunately, this is the case!)
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