Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are among the websites to dominate social media in the present day. However, it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, around ten years ago, a site named ‘Bebo’ was the most popular social network in the world. The thought of Facebook collapsing in the modern age is far-fetched to say the least. And yet, this was the fate which befell Bebo. So in this article, we chart the amazing rise, yet ultimate fall, of what was once a behemoth of social media – Bebo.
Bebo launched in 2005, having been founded by husband-and-wife duo Michel and Xochi Birch. The name was based on the motto ‘Blog Early, Blog Often’. Soon after launching, Bebo enjoyed considerable success – mainly in Europe. Bebo however also would attract many users in the United States. At the time, Myspace was the most popular social network – though Bebo would eventually overhaul the site. In just a few short years, Bebo had become a hugely-popular website, with everyone wanting a piece of the action.
Bebo as a service offered many of the areas that the modern-day Facebook offers. Users would have a personal profile – where posts, photographs, videos and even questionnaires could be placed. An in-house messenger allowed users to securely and privately message one another. Users could also write on the profile of their friends. The background of the profile – the skin – could be customised, which proved popular. There were many apps that ran on Bebo. As alluded to, Bebo was very similar to Facebook.
Given the success Bebo was enjoying, it was only going to be a matter of time before major conglomerates started showing interest. Several bids were tabled, with Bebo eventually sold to AOL for $850m in 2008. At the time of the sale, the Birch duo still owned 70% of the company – securing them an enormous profit. With a conglomerate like AOL backing them, it looked as if Bebo would remain in the public eye for several years to come.
However, the sale to AOL actually ended up coinciding with a fall from grace. The main cause of this was the rise of Facebook. In 2009, Facebook grew enormously, getting to a position where they were the most popular social network. Twitter too proved popular, taking yet more users away from Bebo. As a result, Bebo struggled. Their decline culminated in 2010, when AOL announced they were planning on selling the site. The AOL acquisition has since been described as among the worst ever business deals ever seen.
A few months later, Bebo was sold to Criterion Capital Partners. An extensive overhaul and redesign commenced, with the new owners hoping to reignite interest. However they were unable to compete with Facebook – who had since continuously innovated and moved streets ahead of the competition. Within three years, Bebo filed for bankruptcy. Yet in July 2013, original founders Michel and Xochi Birch purchased the site again for $1m. The site subsequently went down for maintenance for several months.
Bebo would eventually be re-launched as a messenger app named Bebo Blab. 4M users signed up to the app within the first year, but the app was unable to generate any considerable traffic. The app would eventually close. The company does still function to this day – with the business once again trying to reinvent itself as an all-in-one streaming application. Users who visit http://www.bebo.com are greeted by Bebo’s latest project. Bebo will hope that one day they can restore their previous glory.
While Bebo may have reinvented itself once again recently, it remains to be seen whether or not they will ever return to their previous heights. For many, Bebo is a term that has considerable nostalgia attracted to it, with many left to reminisce about what the site once was. Any former user of Bebo will enjoy these Tweets…