Remember Bebo? It’s back and it wants to get you chatting to strangers.
Bebo used to be the default social network for schookids and those who hadn’t discovered Myspace yet. That is until Facebook turned up and the kids moved on. With dwindling traffic, previous owner AOL offloaded Bebo to London-based Criterion Capital Partners earlier this year and now it’s starting to fight back.
The first stage of the plan is the launch of a Chatroulette-style video chat service called bChat. The service is a branded version of vChatter, a ‘family friendly’ version of the ‘random video chat’ format which we covered recently.
Just like with the standard version of vChatter, bChat uses an “advanced matching process” to connect Bebo users to new people based on a number of characteristics, such as their social preferences, geography, age and interests.
Unlike ChatRoulette, where the ‘anything goes’ policy quickly turned it into a rather seedy place to visit, bChat promises to be much safer. In addition to being able to report abuse, vChatter’s platform makes random screening by moderators easy to do.
The move is part of a wider, rolling programme of changes to Bebo reported on today by The Telegraph. New Bebo CEO Adam Levin told the newspaper that the site is now all about self-expression. “I think we can coexist really well with Facebook as Bebo is a platform now focused on self-expression. Not everyone wants to be on a platform where their Mum and Dad are members.”
Can Bebo turn its fortunes around? Myspace, another former success story looking to get back on top, recently launched a new design and integration with Facebook and yet we’re still not 100% certain what it actually wants to be. Bebo is going to need one compelling product if it’s going to lure its members back from the temptations of Facebook.