Looking Back On Bebo: The Successes, The Failures and Everything In Between
At the height of its operation, Bebo was the second-largest social media network in the UK with reportedly over 117 million users and 11 billion page views. Started by Michael Birch and his wife, Xochi in 2005, originally operating from their home in San Francisco. Despite being an American-based website, however, it flourished overseas as a blogging site and alternative to the other popular social media platform of the time, MySpace.
In light of Bebo’s attempted revival, we’ve decided to take a look at Bebo’s previous success, it’s downfalls and everything in between. If you’d like any more information about Bebo or any other social media platforms, you can contact our team on 0800 088 6000.
What Was Bebo?
Bebo was, at its core, just like any standard social media platform. You could post, blog, talk to your friends and as more and more features were released, the experience only got more detailed and in-depth.
Every user of the platform would be given their very own profile, which they could go on to personalise and adapt dependent on the modules that they wanted. As standard, every profile had a comment section and a friends list, after which they could go on to add more modules dependent on personal preference. This could include videos, photos, personal updates, interests and more. There were quizzes, many of which were multiple choice, photo albums for users to upload unlimited images, and even a hot link to a YouTube account.
The website was full of its own original features, many of which are considered standard on social media platforms today. This included:
- Lifestream – This was essentially a news feed, offering the opportunity to post updates and statuses. When the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Flickr were released, your status updates from those profiles could also be viewed.
- Bebo Mobile – In early 2006, Bebo released the mobile version, which enabled users to access their accounts while on the go. Of course, the site went underwent a number of updates, with the most prominent taking place in 2007 and in 2010.
- Bebo Authors – Also known as Bebo Books, this section of the site acted as a way for users to upload written works, whether that was chapters of their books or short stories that could be reviewed by friends.
- Bebo Groups – This module allowed users to view groups that were previously joined to a school. They would only be viewable by school members, but there was later an option that enabled the conversion of existing authors or bands, to Groups.
- Bebo Chat – Bebo Chat was a live chat system that allowed users to communicate with each other using a Meebo plugin with Bebo branding. As was typical with a lot of chat systems in the early 2000s, it was possible to update ‘sayings’ and change the availability status, but there was also access to special offers and even links for other pages.
Beyond these features within a profile, users were also given the opportunity to create different skins, which were design templates for the background of a profile. They could be adjusted to suit different tastes, offering individuality across the platform.
What Happened To Bebo?
Bebo’s popularity was unprecedented, rivaled only by that of MySpace at the time. For this reason, AOL showed their interest and in March 2008, went on to purchase the website for $850 million. The Birches retained 70% of the overall cost, yielding quite the substantial
In 2008, when Facebook was released and began attracting users from across the globe, the original founders began to struggle. Facebook’s user base quickly exceeded that of Bebo, and so within the same year, AOL bought Bebo for $850 million. However, despite its popularity, it quickly became clear that the deal was a poor one when a new social media platform began to take precedence.
Facebook was released in 2008 and quickly began to gain popularity, overtaking the company with ease. The BBC went on to describe the AOL/Bebo deal as “one of the worst deals ever made in the dotcom era,” a point shown to be true when it cost the CEO of AOL his job. The website’s popularity faltered and diminished, and by 2010, AOL had no choice but to either sell the website or shut it down completely.
As users moved to Facebook and abandoned or shut down their profiles, it became clear that it could not compete with Facebook. For that reason, AOL transferred ownership to Criterion Capital Partners, a hedge fund operator. By 2011, Bebo had been relaunched with a whole new design that fits more with the modern social media industry and with a fresh new feature that countless users had asked for from other social media platforms – you could see who had viewed your profile. There was also a new notification system similar to Facebook, that would inform you of inbox messages, lifestream updates and more.
In 2013, Criterion Capital Partners filed for bankruptcy, at which point the original founders purchased back the social network but it never quite recovered after going down for a few months for “new plans”.
Is Bebo Still Active?
Bebo tried to relaunch in 2015 alongside a new messenger app called Bebo Blab. With a new slogan “Probably Not For Boring People,” the relaunch was a tongue-in-cheek attempt at bringing the social network up to date with its competitors. However, the users weren’t returning to the platform as quickly as hoped. While it did attract 3.9 million users in just a year, it was nothing compared to the 2.38 billion people utilising Facebook today and so just two years after it’s re-release, the app was shut down.
While Bebo isn’t active in quite the same way today, it has just been announced that Amazon’s streaming platform, Twitch, will be acquiring Bebo as part of their company with a purchase of $25 million. With Bebo’s previous, and unfortunately failed efforts to become an eSports company, the gaming-focused streaming platform’s move to adopt the social network-turned-messaging app was an understandable one.
The future of the two is uncertain, but it seems to be that Twitch is looking to improve their eSports reach with their product, Twitch Rivals. With Bebo’s experience within the industry and Discord’s competitive bids against Bebo showing a clear interest in what they had to offer, it’s clear that the potential is huge.
Whether you had a Bebo account back in the dar or are simply interested in what Twitch could have to offer in the coming months, it’s a story we’ll certainly be watching unfold in the coming weeks.