Old-School Social Network Bebo Returns To Take On Vine & WhatsApp

A long-defunct social network from before Facebook was relevant, Bebo, has revived itself as a brand new social video messaging service called Blab.

Founder Michael Birch has been teasing a new product ever since he bought the social network back from AOL in 2013 for a fraction of what he sold it for.

Now we know what that new product is.

Billed as a ‘Video Walkie-Talkie,’ Blab provides an easy way to share short video messages with anyone. The key feature here is that users do not have to have the Blab app to see your messages – Users without Blab simply receive a URL to view your video message online. You don’t even need the app to send a reply to the video message, however for a two-way real-time video chat, both users must have the app.

Speaking to U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, Birch said:  “Everything has shifted to being much simpler than it used to be – Apple led the way on that – and we wanted to create something as simple as possible.

“The idea of recording a video and attaching it to something so you can send it just feels so cumbersome.”

The app is available exclusively on iOS, and is free to use. The app is also free of advertising while Birch admits he hasn’t worked out how to make money with it yet. But given his financial success, I imagine he’s not exactly scrambling to find a business model.

Bebo launched in 2005, and quickly became a one of the most popular social networks in Europe – Particularly the U.K. and Ireland. At the height of its popularity it served tens of millions of users, was the most-visited website in Ireland, and was acquired by AOL for a phenomenal $850 million in 2008.

Unfortunately for AOL, Facebook’s popularity skyrocketed shortly after the acquisition, ending the reign of Bebo, MySpace, and many other social networks of that era. In 2009 AOL’s then-CEO Randy Falco was removed from his position as a result of Bebo’s catastrophic failure, which the BBC hailed the as “one of the word deals ever made in the dotcom era.” AOL sold Bebo for an undisclosed sum, reported to be less an $10 million, to Criterion Capital Partners but even they couldn’t right the ship. Bebo filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in May 2013, which allowed Bebo’s founder Michael Birch to buy back the company he sold for $850 million for a measly $1 million just five years after he sold it.

Blab now represents a fresh competitor to the video sharing market, which is becoming increasingly popular as more users adopt services like Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp. The value of this place is clearly demonstrated by Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for an incredible $19Bn, and -to a lesser extent- Vimeo’s acquisition of video sharing service Cameo. It will be interesting to see whether Blab can compete effectively in this space.

Check out a video introduction to Blab below:

Leave a Reply