Bebo’s new owners announced today that it is beginning its initiative to reinvigorate life back into the social network. The company released a video touting the changes in what it bills as being “ballsy”. Those people with a Bebo account will find that their account photos and blog posts have all been archived and will be made available for exporting within the next few months.
The new Bebo is accepting signups right now, with plans to let the first 10,000 in early to play with the next incarnation of the social network, while also reserving a username of their choice.
Started by Michael Birch and his wife in 2005, the social network aimed to take on MySpace, Facebook, and other services. Birch sold the company to AOL for $850 million three years later. By 2010, the media company contemplated selling or shuttering Bebo, which ultimately resulted in it being acquired by Criterion Capital Corporation for less than $10 million.
In July, Birch took the $595 million he reportedly pocketed from his earlier deal with AOL and bought back the company for a paltry $1 million. He sent out a tweet around the same time questioning whether anyone could “re-invent it”, but no matter the results, he intended to have fun trying.
While it’s interesting to hear whether Bebo actually can become a legitimate social network, even Birch admits that it’s “time to come clean”. In the nearly 1 minute 30 second video, he says that the previous iteration of the service was filled with embarrassing photos people shared and even penis drawings — all to help with self-expression. He says that over the past seven years, there have been more than 1 million illustrations of the genitalia, making it one of the largest repositories of images.
Cheeky to say the least, but perhaps Birch is looking to craft something much more mature this time around. We’ll have to wait and see.
In its hey day, Bebo counted 40 million members, a fraction of what Facebook and Twitter are today. It hosts more than 1 petabyte of photos on more than 500 servers.
On the new site’s FAQ section, the company hasn’t revealed the exact time frame when the new site will be available. For those users who want to retrieve a copy of their information, Bebo wants to hear from you — go to its website and enter in your email address. When it’s possible to export, Bebo will let you know, but you’ll only get your photos and blog posts. Everything else like skins, quizzes, wall posts, games, and other content will “all be retired.”
Not much else has been revealed about the revitalization of Bebo, except that it will most likely maintain its personality: being fun, weird, and creative. Birch feels that after it was acquired by AOL and then Criterion, it “lost its mojo”.