Social networking site Bebo is back in the game, but will it really be able to take on giants like Facebook and Twitter?
If you go onto Bebo’s website right now you won’t find the graveyard of your budding adolescence, but an entreating notice that says “Coming Soon”. February 2021, to be precise.
Bebo once sat atop the social media industry, with 10.7 million users in the UK (even more than Myspace). But the growth of Facebook and Twitter left it in the shade, and it declined fast after being purchased by AOL in 2008, leading to its bankruptcy in 2013. Now that it’s set to relaunch, how exactly can Bebo lay down the gauntlet to the rivals that have already buried it once before?
According to co-founder Michael Birch, the solution lies in fostering “real-time” connections between friends rather than the newsfeeds you see on Facebook and Twitter. At this point there still aren’t any screenshots of the user interface available to look at, but in a BBC interview Birch has described the functionality as follows:
“We’re calling it live social networking – when you’re logged into Bebo, you are aware of which other friends are online. You can interact with them in real-time. You can comment on their photo on their profile. They’ll get notified, they’ll come to the photo, and they may even have a conversation under the photo. It’s an experiment, we’ll see how it how it actually does. But we think it’s a more exciting way of actually connecting.”
It’s an interesting idea, and it’s hardly a secret that social media is in need of a shake-up. Facebook feels rather stale, Twitter seems desperately cynical at times, and more than ever people are concerned about the spread of misinformation. On this latter point, Bebo has acted early; the placeholder on the homepage states: “Trump is banned from Bebo before we’ve even launched. The world really IS moving forward!”
Bebo itself was bought by Twitch (a subsidiary of Amazon) in 2019, but Birch and his wife retained the rights to the brand and he is currently “the only one coding it”, an immense task that started as “a fun lockdown project”. And to think that I still can’t even bake my own bread.
What do you think of the relaunch? Will you be among the first users to “Blog Early and Blog Often” once again? Let us know in the poll below.