What Is Bebo, the ‘New’ Social Network That Could Replace Facebook and Twitter
One of the biggest platforms of the mid-2000s, Bebo is set for a comeback in 2021 – and Donald Trump isn’t invited.
Once upon a time, before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok dominated the internet waves, there was Bebo. Standing as an acronym for “blog early, blog often,” the California-based platform launched in 2005 and soon became one of the most popular social media websites at the time, especially in the U.K., where it surpassed Facebook and MySpace with over 40 million members. And now, 16 years later, it’s coming back. Again.
Bebo co-founder Michael Birch announced last week that they would relaunch the mid-aughts website as an alternative space free of fake news, hate speech, and, most importantly, Donald Trump. The idea is to take a different approach from the “news feed” style we’ve become used to, with what Birch calls “live social networking,” where users will be able to see which friends are online and then interact with them in real-time.
At its previous iteration, Bebo’s users had a profile page with two modules with a message board section and a list of friends. Members could add more modules to their profile page, where they could post photos, what track they were listening to, and polls – sort of like a giant virtual corkboard with memories and other collectibles.
“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 take pride in,” he told the BBC. “That you can visit a profile and see things that aren’t just the latest news articles being shared.”
While some people filled their quarantine time with bread-baking and doomscrolling, Birch said he’s been coding the platform all this time – about 100 hours a week. The plan is to make the official relaunch by the end of this month. For now, Bebo’s working as a private beta invite-only network, with a “coming soon” message displayed on its homepage with an important note: users won’t be able to access their old accounts and photos – “probably for the better.”
This isn’t Bebo’s first comeback, though. After it was sold to AOL in 2008 for $850 million, Birch and his wife Xochi later bought it back for $1 million, relaunching it as a messaging app in 2014 before selling the platform to Amazon’s Twitch in 2019 for about $25 million – but the couple still had the rights for the brand.
“It’s an experiment, we’ll see how it how it actually does,” he told the BBC. “But we think it’s a more exciting way of actually connecting.”
While Bebo’s new look still remains a mystery, some users celebrated the news:
Holy shit. Bebo is coming back to rescue social media!
— Nik R (@MrTrikk) February 3, 2021
BEBO is coming back. I repeat BEBO is coming back. Lol, this could be very interesting. Remember when you would fight your friends because you weren't in the top 12 friends ?. Also fighting to get the 'love' hearts for the day? take me back!
— Paola M (@EmpressPaola) January 29, 2021
the only other social media I'm ever gonna get is bebo when that comes back
— Akiriki (@anjokiri) February 2, 2021
I didn't get internet until 2010 so very excited to be getting into my Bebo phase age 27.
— Seán Oh Boyle (@SeanOhBoyle) January 29, 2021