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Bebo set for relaunch after deal is agreed

Graeme Parton

One of the original founders of social network company Bebo has acquired the site for around £650,000, five years after selling it for more than £550m.

Xochi and Michael Birch founded Bebo in the early 2000s – it then went on to be massively popular among teenage internet users. In 2008, AOL purchased the company in a deal worth around $850m. A dwindling user-base, however, led to it being sold by AOL two years later for only $10m.

In May, Bebo applied for bankruptcy protection, and Mr. Birch has acquired the firm from its receivers. He then used Twitter to reveal his plans to get the site up and running in a new capacity. He said:

“Can we actually reinvent it? Who knows, but it will be fun trying…”

In the early 2000s, Bebo, along with Myspace, was one of Facebook’s biggest rivals. During its peak period, it had almost 40 million active users. It did, however, struggle to remain relevant and as user numbers began to drop, Facebook started to rise. Its success was also hindered by the presence of a number of other new social networking heavyweights, such as Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube.

Bebo’s decline was put down to the lack of funding provided by AOL during its period of ownership. The incubator fund of Mr. Birch, Monkey Inferno, will be spearheading the drive to re-launch the site but no details have been released yet. The head of Monkey Inferno, Shaan Puri, said in a statement:

“We know the odds are stacked against us, but we love challenges and the Bebo users deserve better than what they have received the past few years.”

It will be interesting to see what Bebo brings to the table in terms of online content. In order to challenge the likes of Facebook and Google+, it will certainly need to offer something fresh for users.

Graeme has experience creating content for online sources and for the radio, and at university he studied Multimedia Journalism.

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