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With Bebo's Comeback, Comes Facebook's Takedown

If you are in your 40s, like me, you may remember Bebo, Hi5, or My Space. 
I remember the first time I used Hi5, I was so excited to share my life with friends in other countries. Of course, at that time we didn't have WhatsApp for free calls or Zoom to do a video call, so no matter what you used then, it was expensive to communicate with people abroad. If you never used Hi5, I will say it looked very much like Facebook before the last design update, I could say it looks almost exactly the same - don't worry, I am not suggesting in any way Facebook copied Hi5!

At that time it was all about finding that friend that you hadn't seen in 10 years, you didn't have their address, telephone number, email address and obviously, not everyone had a mobile. That's where Hi5 would come into play. I found so many friends that I wasn't in contact with since school, it was so exciting. 

I started taking pictures to share my life with family and old friends abroad because it was the cheapest and fastest way to keep in touch or catch up with them. And if you were the one who travelled abroad, Hi5 was the best, low-cost way to keep your family up to date with what you were doing. It was almost the only way to keep in touch with family and friends because international calls were unaffordable!

In regard to marketing and ads on those social networks, there weren't company pages or interactions with businesses of any kind we just had few ads on the side, there were no companies to follow. It was a social network to truly only socialise on - I miss the old days.

At that time there were not as many issues about social media as there are now either; bullying and privacy/security issues were not significantly present. Conspiracy and politicians or celebrities were not a thing on those platforms. Were people better behaved on social media because it was something new? It felt more innocent and all people wanted was to catch up with friends and family, not to stalk celebrities or to discuss politics.

Now, we have WhatsApp and many other apps to call friends and family for free on, and Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet to share our life on live video.

So what are social networks nowadays for? That depends on the age of the person you asked this to. If you ask a teenager, they will tell you that they use social media to chat with their friends on Snapchat or Instagram, YouTube to watch videos on, and TikTok to watch videos as entertainment and some how-tos. Most of them don't have a Facebook or Twitter account and may never have one. 

1. If you ask a millennial, they will tell you that they use Facebook to keep in touch with family, Instagram to share with friends, Twitter to follow their celebrities, Youtube to watch entertaining videos and they just started using TikTok.

2. If you ask people 35+ years old, they have now started to use less Facebook, they are somehow on Instagram because some friends share stuff there, TikTok is not for them they will say and Snapchat is not something they even considered. Some use Pinterest to get home decor inspiration. Some would have used Twitter but WhatsApp and Zoom is the main way they keep now in touch.

3. And people past 50 years old will only know Facebook and more likely never used Twitter, all the others are almost unknown to them.

If you don't understand these differences, you can end up wasting your time, just like Google wasted their time 25 times - Google has tried 25 times to create a social network and it has failed 25 times mainly because they don't understand their audience.

If you create a social network you need to be specific about who will be your users and what do you want them to use it for.

If you were to do a social network, you will need to come up with a whole new idea, something innovative, not done before, and with a good purpose to attract people who are already fed up with the current social networks constantly attending court hearings. 

So what is the next era of social media?

With this, let's talk about Bebo - an acronym for "Blog early, blog often." It was founded in 2005 and was once the most popular network in the UK, as well as being big in Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
At its peak, it had more than 40 million members, which in 2007-2008 was considered to be a big social network. 
In 2009 Facebook became commercial and in a few years brought down social networks, like Bebo. Is it time for Bebo to take back its online presence, and show Facebook that after 16 years they now understand what social media should be about?

Bebo's co-founder plans to relaunch the social network as a new generation of social media, with a focus on profiles and "real-time" interactions between friends rather than the news feed at the core of Twitter and Facebook. 

On 1st November 2007, Myspace and Bebo joined the Google-led OpenSocial alliance, which already included Friendster, Hi5, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Ning, and Six Apart. 

OpenSocial was to promote a common set of standards for software developers to write programs for social networks. Facebook remained independent. 

Bebo Co-founder, Michael Birch, tweeted that he has been coding the new website during the lockdown. "I am relaunching bebo.com as a social network next month," he said. "I have been coding it myself during the lockdown. I put a 'coming soon' page up yesterday and it trended on Twitter in Ireland. Hopefully, the actual site does nearly as well." In reaction to the news of the relaunch, social media users have been reveling in nostalgia. 

In 2008, Mr. Birch and his wife Xochi sold the site to AOL for $850m (£623m). They later bought it back for $1m and tried to revamp it in several ways, before finally selling the business on to Amazon's Twitch in 2019 for $25m. However, the couple retained the rights to the brand, and with time on his hands during the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Birch began thinking about what kind of gap there might be in the market. 

It has been 15 years since the original Bebo was conceived, and over 12 years since it was last a vibrant community. Although there are nods to the original Bebo we are not trying to recreate it as was. This is an experiment to re-imagine what a social network can be today.

Will he be able to reimagine and reinvent social media?

At the moment you can only use Bebo if you are invited, they say they are testing just to make sure it is what they expected it to be.

Twitter users shared their excitement about the announcement, they were saying "I'm definitely getting back on Bebo." or " Waiting for #Bebo to be available."

So what is Bebo planning to do?

Mr. Birch has described Bebo’s relaunch as “live social networking.”

“When you’re logged into Bebo you’re aware of which other friends are online” he told BBC News.

“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.”

He added: “What we want to do is go back a little bit to this idea of a profile. That you have an identity you sort of taking pride in. That you can visit a profile and see things that aren’t just the latest news articles being shared.”

Mr. Birch said he is the only person coding the site and is spending around 100 hours a week on it.

He said that he does not expect Bebo to reach the heights of its ’00s heyday but hopes to be able to disrupt the market.

Disrupting the market of social networks is exactly what we need, we need to reinvent what social media is to us, we are only focused on regulating and controlling it, but the solution may be to reinvent social media and start all over again.

Mili Ponce

Founder of Social Songbird, former Computer Engineer, Entrepreneur, Keynote Speaker on Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Social Media Strategist, eCommerce and Tech startups Business Mentor, Trainer, Writer, Blogger, Traveler, Mother, Daughter, Dreamer.

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With Bebo's Comeback, Comes Facebook's Takedown Reviewed by Mili Ponce on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 Rating: 5
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