In July 2013, entrepreneur Michael Birch spent $1 million to buy back Bebo, a company he founded and sold to AOL for $595 million. Subsequently in February this year, the company announced the debut of its video messaging service Blab.
Now, after gathering 775,000 people on the waiting list, Blab is available for download in Apple’s App Store. The Android version is coming soon. Messaging apps are all the rage right now, especially given Facebook’s recent $19 billion deal to acquire WhatsApp, and Blab is seeking to stand out in an increasingly crowded space with its emphasis on video messaging.
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To send a Blab, all you have to do is hold to record and let go to send — just like creating a video on Vine or Instagram. However, Bebo is keen to distance itself from those two services. Shaan Puri, the CEO of Monkey Inferno, the tech incubator behind the revival of Bebo says:
Vine and Instagram (and YouTube) are public networks. You make videos and receive views, likes and comments from people you don’t know. We are a tool for communication. You blab people you know, and they blab you back.
You can also use Blab with anyone else in your phone contacts even if they don’t have the app — what they will get is a text message with a link that opens in their phone’s browser, where they can watch the video and even send a reply without having to download the app.
The app is billed as being “like FaceTime, but on your own time.” As video chatting live requires full attention at the same time, Blab is trying to fill the gap so you can still chat via video, but allow the other person to reply whenever he/she wants.
Blab also has an element that’s similar to Snapchat’s “ephemeral” angle — it only lets you can re-watch the last video each person sent you, but there’s no history beyond that. It even has a ‘Shake to Destroy’ failsafe feature that lets you cancel a Blab while recording, as “sending a blab is almost too easy.”
However, Puri notes that Snapchat is a way to show something to your friends, while Blab is a way to say something. “We call it a video walkie talkie because people use it to communicate back and forth with friends,” he says.
Even though there are already over 700,000 people whom the app will reach, it still isn’t clear if Blab will become popular. After all, it’s difficult to break into the crowded messaging market, and the idea of Blab isn’t anything really unique — other than the usual messaging apps, it’s facing stiff competition from Samba, Snapchat, and more.
Blab, however, is the first of three apps that Bebo will be releasing this year — and it will be interesting to see what else the company can come up with.