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Saturday, 18 August, 2001, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Women reconnect online
Friendsreunited has enjoyed phenomenal growth since it launced nine months ago
By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida

A website that allows old school friends to get in touch with one another is proving a huge hit with young women in the UK.

More than half of the visitors to Friendsreunited.co.uk are women, according to new figures from research firm Nielsen//NetRatings.

"Its audience sets it apart from other websites," said John Purcell, Nielsen//NetRatings sales and marketing director.


Friends are much more important to women than men

Psychologist Michael Argyle, Oxford University
"This type of site is much more appealing to females than males," he said.

Experts say the make-up of the site's users reflects one of the key differences between men and women.

"Friends are much more important to women than men, and they talk about highly personal topics," said Dr Michael Argyle, psychology professor at Oxford University.

"Men don't have friends like that."

UK's third fastest-growing site

Friendsreunited has enjoyed phenomenal growth since it launched nine months ago. Now the number of visitors has more than doubled in a month.

It has become the UK's third fastest-growing site ever, behind Napster and the Big Brother website.


Everybody has been to school, everyone has lost touched with school friends. So rather than make 50 phone calls, you can use the internet and get in touch in 20 minutes

John Purcell, Nielsen//NetRatings
In July, it attracted 395,000 visitors, up from 150,000 in June and under 50,000 in May, according to the Nielsen/NetRatings figures.

Most of the visitors are young people. Around 40% are aged between 25-34, spending on average about 22 minutes searching for lost friends.

Classmates.com, a similar American site, is one of the hottest net properties in the US, ranking 16th in the league of most-visited websites.

'Intense friendships'

Sites like Friendsreunited and Classmates.com make it easy to find and contact old friends.

"Everybody has been to school, everyone has lost touch with school friends. So rather than make 50 phone calls, you can use the internet and get in touch in 20 minutes," said Mr Purcell.

"Friendships developed at school age are often very intense," explained Dr Argyle.

"This is a further source of finding close women friends."

The brains behind Friendsreunited are Steve and Julie Parkhurst, who run it out of their home in London.

They set up the site last October to find their own friends. It has now become so popular that they have given up their day jobs to work on it full time.

Huge database

The site is a huge database of more than 30,000 schools, colleges and universities in Britain.

People can log on for free, register under their school or search for friends by name. For an annual fee of 5, the site lets members e-mail classmates to find out where they are now.

Use of the internet in the UK is dominated by men. They account for 60% of the number of people online.

But experts say this is slowly changing, as more and more people venture onto the internet.

In the US, women have already overtaken men online, accounting for 51% of web users.

See also:

14 Jun 01 | Business
Women overtake men online
28 Sep 00 | UK
Women 'find lovers online'
02 Feb 00 | UK
Women on the web
11 Jun 01 | Business
US 'to lose internet dominance'
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