Back in 2006, in the early days of my college life, I took on a project exploring the spread and impact of social networking sites on the web. At the time I had a grand total of two social network profiles; MySpace, which I set up out of boredom and then never used, and Bebo, the undoubted king of social networks in Ireland at the time.
When doing this research, which to make my life easier ignored many large Chinese and Brazilian networks and concentrated on English speaking users, there were three major sites; MySpace, Bebo and Facebook. It was then that I signed up to Facebook and it has been my main online profile since. The decline of the other two then powerhouses has been quite dramatic. MySpace had a minor resurgence earlier this year, and now Bebo has announced it is making a comeback.
Back then the concept of social networking was much simpler. The Internet has moved on and now the vast majority of sites allow some degree of social interaction. With that my online presence has grown far beyond my two profiles and I now have countless, mostly forgotten accounts with networks that offer pretty much the same experience.
And that will be the interesting part of this, to see if Bebo can offer anything different. Returning CEO Michael Birch, the now multi millionaire, has released a video ridiculing the way Bebo used to be and saying things will be different now. But he doesn’t say how.
So far what we have is a brand name that used to mean something and a 90 second (admittedly funny) video. They may have the goodwill and interest of many of the users who grew up using it, but at the same time they have made their loyal users who stuck with them extremely angry by closing the site down for the refresh. Do they have enough to trouble Facebook and Twitter? Probably not, but people are changing their social habits and becoming bored with current offerings. It’s unlikely but maybe Bebo is the answer.