Bebo, Inc.
Type Private
Founded January 2005 (2005-01)[1]
Founder Michael Birch
Xochi Birch
Headquarters San Francisco, California, United States
Area served Worldwide
Key people Adam Levin[2] (CEO)
Industry Social networking
Operating income $1.1 million (USD)
Profit N/A
Owner Adam Levin
Employees 56
Parent Criterion Capital Partners
Divisions music, video, authors (October 2011)
Slogan Blog Early, Blog Often
Alexa rank increase 2827 (October 2011)[3]
Type of site Social network service
Advertising Banner ads
Registration Required
Available in Multilingual, including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch
Launched July 2005 (2005-07)
Current status Active

Bebo (pronounced bee-bow) is a social networking website launched in July 2005. It is currently owned and operated by Criterion Capital Partners after taking over from AOL in June 2010.

The website's name is an acronym for Blog Early, Blog Often.[4] Users receive a personal profile page where they can post blogs, photographs, music, videos and questionnaires to which other users may answer. Additionally, users may add others as friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves. Bebo is very similar to other social networking sites, mainly Facebook.[1]

Michael Birch has said on the BBC Radio 4 programme "The Bottom Line" broadcast on 30th June 2011 that the acronym 'Blog Early, Blog Often' was a made up story to answer the question of what the name meant and is not actually true.

Bebo was founded by Michael Birch and his wife Xochi Birch in January 2005 at their home in San Francisco.[1] It was acquired by AOL on March 13, 2008 for $850 million, with the Birch's combined 70% stake yielding a profit of $595 million from the deal.[5][6][7] However the founders and executives of Bebo had stated that their end goal had been to sell out to a larger company, as they were well aware of the site's platform instabilities. Many suggested that AOL overpaid for Bebo, especially as advertising suffered a downturn due to the financial crisis. Furthermore AOL was unwilling to invest and continue developing Bebo so that it could remain competitive with Facebook.[8][9]

In April 2010, AOL announced it was planning to sell or shut down Bebo,[10] with the sale being completed on June 17, 2010 to Criterion Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum which was reportedly under $10 million.[11][12]

The BBC said that the AOL purchase of Bebo was "one of the worst deals ever made in the dotcom era"[13], and it cost then-CEO of AOL Randy Falco his job.[14]



Each Bebo User receives a profile, which must include two specific modules, a comment section where other users can leave a message, and a list of the user's friends. Users can select from many more modules to add. By default, when an account is created the profile is private, which limits access to friends specifically added. The user may select the "Public Profile" option so as the profile will still be visible to any other members of a school they may have joined. Profiles may be personalized by a design template that is the background of the user's profile, known as a skin. Profiles may include quizzes which offer multiple choice, polls for their friends to vote in and comment on, photo albums which allows the user to upload an unlimited number of images with a maximum limit of 96 per album, blogs with a comments section, a list of bands of which the user is a fan, a list of groups that the user is a member of. A 'Video Box' may be added, either hot-linked from YouTube, uploaded directly to Bebo's servers via Motionbox or copied from a Bebo Media Content Provider's page.


Bebo Lifestream (May 2011)

Users can view the recent changes friends have made to their homepage from the 'Home' menu. These changes can include uploaded photos, updated flashboxes and newly added videos and friends. A friend's updates to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and other services can also be viewed, if those friends have linked those accounts to their Bebo profile. It has a number of privacy settings, where you can control what items from your profile appear on yours and your friends lifestream page, e.g. Photos, Your 'Sayings', Applications, Comments, etc. Users have complained that it is too crowded and 'ugly', but Bebo responded to this by updating the whole page and adding some new features, as well as improving the existing ones.

Bebo Mobile

Bebo launched the mobile version of the site in early 2006, making users access Bebo from a mobile device. In 2007 and 2010, the mobile site was updated to match the design and features of the full site.

In 2009, Bebo released a free application on the App Store, letting users visit Bebo on their iPhones and iPod Touch's under AOL, Bebo's former owners. In April 2011, the Bebo app was removed from the App Store and is currently in the stage of being redesigned and updated. The new version is scheduled for re-launch in late 2011.

It is reported that Bebo is looking into a BlackBerry application and on other smartphones.[citation needed]

Bebo Authors

On February 22, 2007, Bebo Authors, also known as Bebo Books, was launched. On this section of the site, authors can upload chapters of their books and also get them reviewed with a certain module. Currently there is no module to display books on a profile page like there is for Bands and Groups.

Bebo Groups

On July 10, 2007, the "Group" module was added to pages. This enabled people to view groups which were previously joined to a school and were also viewable only to school members. Bebo also gave an option to convert existing Authors or Bands to Groups. This conversion takes up to 24 hours as the profile must be manually changed by a member of Bebo staff. Group pages give users an option to join things they find interesting. These groups can often be educational as well as associated with Big Brother UK 2008.[15]

Bebo 3rd Party Login

Users can log in and/or make a Bebo account using their existing Facebook account (using a service called Facebook Connect), their AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) account, and a number of other 3rd Party services. AIM is included because Bebo was bought by AOL and they own AIM.

Bebo Chat

A new service called Bebo Chat, was launched with several other updates in 2011, which allows users to chat to other users. using a Meebo chat plugin, but with Bebo branding. Users can also update their 'Saying' and show their availability status, as well as have access to other links to Bebo's pages, and special offers. It also provides a link for users to visit Bebo's fan page on Facebook, where they can 'Like' their page and receive updates.

Open Media Platform

Announced on the November 13, 2007, Bebo's Open Media Platform is a platform for companies to distribute content to the Bebo community. Content providers can bring their media player to Bebo, and monetize the advertising within it. Each content provider has a specialised page designed for video which showcases any Adobe Flash video content at the top of the profile. Many networks are signed up for the service, including CBS, Sky,, BBC and

Open application platform

Bebo joined OpenSocial, a set of common APIs for building social applications across the web. It announced plans for a developers platform and said it will make a further platform announcement. Bebo's Open Application Platform was launched in early December 2007 with just over fifty applications and is now host to hundreds.

Many members disliked the new applications created with the profile and asked Bebo to remove them.[16] One of the main complaints was it made it easy for application developers to provide a way for members to send invites to all their friends on Bebo and many applications encouraged users to do so. A poll was held on the Bebo developers page and had a majority against apps.[17]

Privacy and security

Bebo offers three privacy levels: public, private and fully private. Public profiles can be seen by any user, except that profiles of users younger than sixteen years old are seen only by logged in users. Private profiles are seen only by their friends and members of any school or college they have joined. Fully private profiles are ones that have not joined any school and so only their direct friends can view their profile. If a user chooses the 'Public' option, they can also set age restrictions on who can contact them. Age restrictions do not apply to direct friends. Bebo also allows a user to set their photos to private, so only friends can see them and can stop others from copying them too. Most users disliked Bebo's privacy settings and in feedback to Bebo have been told to update it to Facebook-like settings.

Inadvertent privacy breach by New Zealand ISP

On May 21, 2008 some users in New Zealand were temporarily given full access to other users' accounts.[18] Various users logged in under their own account were switched over to the accounts of other users at random intervals, some people gaining access to over 20 different users' accounts. People were sometimes given access to addresses and phone numbers of other members, and some took advantage of the situation by uploading pornography onto other members' accounts.[19] Bebo network engineers traced the error to a mis-configured proxy server in an Internet service provider (ISP) in New Zealand, which was later fixed. The ISP seemed to be interfering with its cache, thereby causing some of its customers to receive cached cookies and details from other users, likely because the ISP used dynamic IP addresses.

New Bebo

Possible Closure and Sale

On April 7, 2010, AOL announced that they were either going to sell the website,[20] or shut it down. This was mainly due to the falling numbers of unique users; Bebo users were moving to the social giants Facebook and to Twitter. AOL said that Bebo couldn't compete with other Social Networking sites at its current state, and that was the reason they were going to sell it and that they couldnt commit to taking on the massive task to keep Bebo in the social network 'race'. It has been reported that AOL's finances were struggling.

Criterion Capital Partners

On June 16, 2010, it was reported that AOL had sold Bebo to hedge fund operators Criterion Capital Partners.[21] The purchase was confirmed[22] on June 17, 2010.


On February 17, 2011, Bebo launched a brand-new design. This consisted of a new more modern Header, a new more modernized Home page and a New Profile Layout Option. Further, users can now see who has visited their profiles (a feature which can be changed in settings).

In April, Bebo added a new Notification system, similar to Facebook's. It notifies users on new inbox messages, lifestream activity and more. This was a feature which was heavily asked for in feedback.


The website, at its height of popularity, overtook MySpace to become the most widely used social networking website in the United Kingdom,[23][24] eventually registering at least 10.7 million unique users. The website became mired in similar controversies in the UK as those which beset MySpace in the United States and other countries at the time.

See also

  • Online communities with more than 100 million users
  • Facebook Connect
  • AOL


  1. ^ a b c Burkeman, Oliver (2006-11-04). "Bebo, Michael and Xochi Birch". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  2. ^ Worthen, Ben (2010-07-13). "Meet the New Bebo". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  3. ^ – Traffic Details from Alexa. Alexa Internet, Inc. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 
  4. ^ Butcher, Mike (2008-03-08). "AOL buys Bebo for $850m in cash". TechCrunch. m-in-cash/. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  5. ^ / In depth - AOL to ‘supercharge’ Bebo revenues
  6. ^ "AOL acquires Bebo social network". BBC News. March 13, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  7. ^ "AOL to ‘supercharge’ Bebo revenues". Financial Times. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  8. ^ Kiss, Jemima (Wednesday 7 April 2010). "Bebo: where did it all go wrong?". Guardian (London). 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Letzing, John (2010-04-06). "AOL pulls plug on Bebo social networking effort". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-04-06. 
  11. ^ "Bebo sold by AOL after just two years". BBC News. 12:16 GMT, Thursday, 17 June 2010 13:16 UK. Retrieved 2010-06-17. 
  12. ^ "AOL Sells Bebo to Criterion for Less Than $10 Million". Bloomberg Businessweek. 2010-06-17. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  13. ^ "Bebo sold by AOL after just two years". BBC. 2010-06-17. 
  14. ^ Bebo Not Worth a Pail of Spit to AOL? This Comes as a Shock to Exactly–Hmm–No One.
  15. ^ "Group Surf". 
  16. ^ "A group petitioning for the removal of Bebo Apps". 
  17. ^ "Poll on apps at the Bebo official page". 
  18. ^ "Glitch opens Bebo users' private details to others". 
  19. ^ "Bebo's HUGE error". 
  20. ^ AOL planning to sell Bebo
  21. ^ AOL To Sell Bebo to Criterion Capital Partners
  22. ^ Criterion Capital Partners Acquires Bebo from AOL
  23. ^ Steve O'Hear (August 14, 2007). "Bebo overtakes MySpace in the UK". ZDNet. 
  24. ^ Jessi Hempel (September 19, 2007). "Bebo's British invasion". Fortune. 

External links

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