Wednesday, December 10, 2008

AOL's Big Bet: Bebo

In light of our previous class assignment on Web 2.0, a number of social networking sites were described. In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, Emily Steel wrote an article, titled, "AOL Readies High-Stakes Social-Media Debut." It can be found using the following link.

In summary, this past March, Time Warner purchased Bebo, a social networking site (meaning Blog Early Blog Often) for $850 Million. Currently, Bebo is ranked third behind MySpace and Facebook in terms of unique visitors per month. Among the hopes that AOL has for Bebo is to grow to include all the users of its AOL/AIM instant messenger programs, which could be about 125 million people. AOL projects that in the near future, most internet users will use social networking sites, specifically Bebo as their homepage or launch pad to the internet, combining email accounts from Yahoo and Google, news feeds, and online video. One of the recent feature Bebo has added is the integration of the AOL Instant Messaging and Skype on the website, for broader communication between its users (Similar to Facebook Chat). While Bebo is only currently attracting slightly less than 6 million unique visitors a month, that figure has increase 34% this past year, comparing to the almost 75 million and 46 million visitors for MySpace and Facebook respectively.

The biggest question that faces the value of social networking sites are the value they posess for advertisers. Some critics of AOL think that they overpaid. I think I tend to agree with that opinion. However, reading this article showed me that Bebo has done more to allow third party access to add entertainment features to the site.

Bebo's biggest roadblock is increasing membership. Competing with Facebook and MySpace is tough. If there are many users like me, I personally only want to have one profile to manage. I use Facebook. I waste too much time on the site as it is. Even though Facebook is not currently an ideal space to start browsing, if it eventually does have characteriscs like Bebo mentioned in the article, I do not think I would like it. I get easily distracted. I like the social networking as a piece of my browsing experience, not my starting point.

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