Posted on: 3rd Jul 2013 by: Dokoo
Yesterday it was announced that Michael Birch has bought back Bebo for $1 million, five years after selling the social platform to AOL for $850 million. Birch tweeted that he is looking to ‘reinvent’ the website.
For me, the thought of Bebo (which stands for blog early blog often) conjures up a whole host of good memories. When I last looked at my Bebo account, it was like being transported back to my university days from 2005-2008. Photos of nights out with friends, holiday photos in the south of Spain and the odd unflattering snap of me when I was going through my long hair phase! Bebo captured an exciting time of my life during university and the same could be said for many of my friends.
But like some things, Bebo lost its relevance. For me it was when I was working in New York late in 2008. Facebook by then was the social media network of choice for most in New York and that’s when I decided to join the platform. Bebo seemed a young person social network and it never quite grew out of that perception. Features such as sending hearts and drawing pictures on a friend’s profile page soon became dated and unlike Facebook it failed to adapt.
Facebook on the other hand, had a more grown up feel. It felt an exciting platform and it was (and perhaps still is) the place to be. During that time more and more of my friends back home were also leaving Bebo for Facebook citing similar reasons. Pretty quickly I stopped using Bebo entirely. I think people just outgrew Bebo and the platform was powerless to reverse its decline.
Can Bebo be reinvented? There are big challenges for Bebo in 2013. Facebook has become an enduring presence in our daily lives and with over one billion active users worldwide, it’s probably going to be around for a while. Other social platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram and more recently Snapchat all have large user bases as well. The challenge for Bebo is to find out where it fits in the social media landscape.
MySpace, another victim of Facebook's dominance, made a sort of comeback this year with a new design and a refocus on music. But it struggles to cope with the success of Spotify and with Google soon to release its own music streaming service, MySpace may continue to find it difficult in the social music space.
How will Bebo be different? Will it compete with Facebook directly or will it become more niche? How will it make money from its service, through ads or through a subscription? Or who knows, it may become something different? Perhaps it will become a place to buy and sell stuff; eBay but with a social twist…‘bid early bid often’?
There are a lot of questions for Michael Birch and he will need good answers if Bebo is to become more than just a memento for his past success. He will need to dream it all up again and I, for one, will be hoping that he does!
Peadar is a project manager @ Dokoo
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