Bebo is a social networking website, designed to allow friends to communicate in various ways. It has developed into an online community where users can post pictures, write blogs and send messages to one another, and is similar in format to MySpace, Xanga, and Yahoo! 360. The site was founded in January 2005 by Michael Birch and his wife, Xochi Birch. It was given a major relaunch in July of that year.
Bebo is the 89th most popular English-language website (at 2 May 2007) according to Alexa Internet. In the United States, Bebo was the fastest growing social networking site in June 2006 according to Hitwise, Inc. Bebo also announced on March 17, 2007 that it was the most popular website in the Republic of Ireland. Bebo as a keyword was also listed as the number one term most representative of search trends on Google in 2006.
Once a user has registered an account, they edit and maintain their own profile page using online forms. The top of a user’s profile contains information about the user, which would typically include their name, a customizable profile image (often a photo of the user), and some miscellaneous information under various headings. Although default headings are provided, many users create their own to reflect their own interests.
Profiles include; a whiteboard, in which other users can draw pictures with a variety of colors using a system called ffArt, a comment section where other users can leave a message, and a list of the user’s friends. These are all publicly viewable, unless the user selects the “Private Profile” option, which limits access to the profile to friends specifically added by the user.
Profiles are also capable of including quizzes, slide-shows of images uploaded by the user, polls for their friends to vote in, photo albums, blogs with a comments section for others’ responses, a list of bands (see below) of which the profile-holder is a “groupie” and a “Flash Box”; which plays video, often linked from popular Internet site YouTube, or uploaded directly to Bebo’s servers. Members can also add “widgets” which are more graphically rich components provided by an external site â€” typically something like a slide-show of the member’s photos with some transition effect applied.
On 11 July 2006, “Bebo Bands” was launched On this section of the site, bands or solo artists are able to create a profile showcasing their music. Along with undiscovered talents, it has a section called “New Music Only on Bebo” linking to established artist pages including Paris Hilton, Matt Willis, Orson, Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, The Kooks, Lily Allen, and others.
The band pages include; a band member list which is similar to the friends list on a normal profile, a list of “groupies” (fans who have added the band as though it were a friend), an area for tour dates, a blog, and a list of songs which have been uploaded for playing through Bebo’s media player, or to be added to other user’s playlists. These songs can be grouped by the band into albums, along with cover-art. All band members can edit the content of the band profile.
Although the Bebo Band section is intended for use by musical groups, the facility is also used by many to form clubs or societies, or as unofficial fan pages for established bands.
Concern has been raised about potential risks to children from pedophiles accessing personal information contained in profiles. This can, however, be prevented by making one’s profile private. A survey of two million profiles by Bigulo.com found that one in three publicly accessible profiles belonged to children under the age of eighteen.
In March 2006 Norfolk County Council is believed to have become the first LEA in the United Kingdom to order all schools in its authority to block the website from school computers due to its being used for “unsavoury activities”.
In March 2006 in Derry, Bebo was used to organise a sectarian fight under the guise of a cross community football match.