Exclusive: Why Bebo is making a comeback

EXCLUSIVE: Jack Crute speaks to Bebo's Shaan Puri about the future of the Bebo brand.

EXCLUSIVE: Jack Crute speaks to Bebo’s Shaan Puri about the future of the Bebo brand.

Remember Bebo? In 2007, it was The big social network – a rival to Facebook for teens across the globe. At its peak, the site had 40 million users and generated over a billion page views a week.

In 2008, the site was bought out by internet giant AOL for a whopping $850 million, and things quickly went downhill. Facebook and Twitter overtook the network, and in 2013 Bebo’s original founders bought back the flagging social network for $1 million, only to close it down.

CLASSY: The old Bebo featured custom themes for your profile.

CLASSY: The old Bebo featured custom themes for your profile.

The old Bebo is gone. No longer are we be subjected to an auto-play of Cascada every time we click on someone’s profile, nor do we have to face those glittery GIF backgrounds that made our eyes water. The new Bebo is modern and fresh, a true alternative to modern-day messaging apps like SnapChat and WhatsApp.

Now, Bebo is back with a whole new business model and ethos. Tside reporter Jack Crute spoke to one of its founders, Shaan Puri, about his plans for the future of the Bebo brand.

“We liked the challenge of bringing Bebo back,” Shaan begins, with an all-American enthusiasm.

“Very few internet brands have ever been turned around, but we had an idea exciting and unique enough that we thought it was possible.”

The new Bebo is mobile-focused. The network’s app, which is free, can be used to chat with friends through text and an innovative new hashtag system, where users can put their own cartoon mini-mes into the picture.

“The future is on mobile. We won’t be ‘mobile only’ but we wanted to be ‘mobile first’. The new Bebo is based around messaging friends, which naturally happens on mobile,” said Shaan.

“It’s much different to the old Bebo, and a pretty crazy idea in general,” Shaan adds. “At first, I was nervous, now I’m excited.”

Shaan has every right to be excited. In its first 24-hours on the AppStore, an incredible 1.2M messages were sent through Bebo, and the figure is growing day-by-day. Thanks to other social media sites like Twitter, the app is becoming a new viral platform, with millions of teenagers posting their avatars online to show friends.

MINI ME: Bebo's new cartoon avatars

MINI ME: Bebo’s new cartoon avatars

It’s not just teenagers who are enjoying the app, either.

“[X Factor’s] Frankie Cocozza was one of our first users, and when Jedward created a gigantic group chat for all their fans, our servers nearly melted down!”

“Brands and celebrities have shown a lot of interest, which is encouraging. We haven’t even started building features for them yet, but have some interesting plans that will roll out in a few months.”

The last couple of months have truly been a rollercoaster ride for the Bebo brand, and it appears Shaan’s plans for a big turn-around are paying off. So, what’s next?

“First, a good night’s sleep for me and the team. Then, global domination!”

Bebo is free on iOS and Android. You can find out more about the app on the official Bebo website.

from Tside