The co-founder of retro social network Bebo has shared his plans for its relaunch.
Michael Birch said the new and improved website will focus on profiles and “real-time” interactions between friends. He aims to provide a “refreshing break” from misinformation spread elsewhere, something which competitors Twitter and Facebook have both been accused of perpetuating recently.
Odds stacked against him
Speaking with the BBC, the co-founder said he was coding the website himself after being bored in quarantine, and acknowledged that the odds were stacked against him.
Mr Birch has said that he hopes a mix of nostalgia and curiosity will see enough people be tempted back to the site, though the platform will look different to its past self.
The new incarnation of the website will be focussed around what Mr Birch is calling “live social networking”, claiming to address gaps in the current market.
“When you're logged into Bebo, you are aware of which other friends are online," he told the BBC.
"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.
"It's an experiment, we'll see how it actually does. But we think it's a more exciting way of actually connecting."
Mr Birch has hinted that the new site will feature some nods to the past, and hopes the profiles will have “an identity you sort of take pride in”.
A brief history of Bebo
Bebo - standing for “blog early, blog often” - was founded in 2005, and at its peak was the most popular social network in the UK, with over 40 million users worldwide.
The network allowed users to create a personal profile page to which they could upload photos, blog posts, music and questionnaires. Much like Facebook, which grew to even bigger status in the 2000s, the platform allowed users to interact with friends virtually.
Differing itself from the declining MySpace social network, Bebo featured a collection of defining features, which included customisable “skins” for users to change the appearance of their profile, as well as a top 16 ranking system, used to place their friends in order of preference.
The network was sold to AOL for $850 million in 2008, a deal later described by the BBC as “one of the worst deals ever made in the dotcom era”.
Mr Birch and his wife Xochi bought it back for $1 million, and also retained the rights to the brand.
The couple have tried to revamp the website several times, including a foray into the e-sports streaming world, which was eventually sold to Amazon’s Twitch in 2019 for $25 million.