We’ve been following news stories this past month about the Bebo situation. Previously AOL decided it needed to cut costs by dismantling Bebo or selling it. Tim Armstrong revealed that there were potential parties interested in buying Bebo. The exact companies who are purchasing Bebo has not been revealed at this time. Though we do know of one individual who will not purchase Bebo.
- Parties not interested in purchasing Bebo
- Michael Birch
Michael Birch founder of Bebo, in a previous interview with Telegraph, states:
“Most social networks have gone into gaming and I think somebody will buy Bebo from AOL as it still has still has a lot of unique users a month and that’s valuable”
He believes AOL will not get the original price of $850 million when they bought the site from him, but at least they can cover part of their losses. He also believes the demise of Bebo, as well as other popular websites can occur when large companies buy a product in which they do not understand.
An insider explained to Telegraph that a core reason behind the fall of Bebo was how AOL did not listen to the feedback of it’s users and focused towards implementing AIM/AOL features, instead of fixing bugs. We’ve covered a few of those bugs in the previous blog posts of last year, however, those were mainly focused on AOL/AIM integration to Bebo, and not the other way around.
Michael Birch believes Zynga would be a great purchaser of Bebo. Zynga currently focuses mainly on games, particularly social games like Farmville.
With the initial news of a possible Bebo shut down, users created their own petitions, groups, and websites dedicated to Save Bebo. You can read our initial observation here.
The recent news released this week, AOL is reportedly deciding on what to do with it’s 850 million dollar venture. Should it shut down BEBO or sell it to another company. Hopefully they decide to sell it for Bebo’s sake. Shutting down the site with it’s users is such a downer way to go. It already has it’s own European following that awesomely continues to maintain the site bringing in new skins and applications, and socializing features. The site ran fine on it’s own before the purchase, but it stirred quite a few headaches once AOL forced it’s own profile system onto it.
What Went Wrong?
Bebo’s Unique Visitor count has fallen from 5 million to 1.8 million.
What could have caused this downward trend?
AOL Members Experience During the Transition
To understand this story a bit better, we need to understand the mind of typical AOL user. AOL is mostly used for emails, and connecting with friends and that’s pretty much it. Whenever AOL enacts a change to the service, AOL members are up in arms over the change. You can put this into perspective with how the typical Facebook user dislikes any upgrades Facebook adds to enhance the site.
The major gripes with the AOL Bebo integration stemmed firstly from its drastic change from the previous profile system. AOL users are used to an open profile system with simplistic features and minimalistic approach. Privacy options were opt in features, so it made it extremely easy connect with other AOL and AIM members in chatrooms. The Bebo transition caused it’s first headache when all profiles were suddenly placed into private by default. Users who were unfamiliar with the system had difficulty finding features, some questioned how they could make their profiles public again.
AOL developers tried to ease the transition by transferring AOL Profile related features to Bebo. This resulted in what could be called a “two faced Bebo”. We’re not quite sure why but OLD AOL profiles who transferred to the profile system were allowed access to these exclusive modules. Any screennames created after the transition, were not allowed access to these modules and instead were forced to use Bebo’s own modules. The most important of these modules was the “Code Snippet” box which allowed HTML editing.
AOL has yet to fix their own Bebo Modules for four months now…
AOL users also had to worry about one extra thing, duplicate names. Some AOL users found themselves with profile urls using extra numbers due to an original BEBO user using the same name. This caused some confusion as it was thought that the original Bebo user stole their password, or some faulty glitch in the system.
Bebo Users Experience During the Transition
On the flipside, the typical Bebo user are in there teens. They are interested in flashy gaudy websites, music, soccer, and pop stars. Each of their interests leans towards the U.K music industry.
Bebo users also had to make due to some changes, especially within the profile system and layout. The Login page now sported both a BEBO and AOL login form. The home page went through it’s own transition, now linking to AOL related products like Lifestream, AOL Mail and a To Do page.
The profile page went through a major transition, as now a flash timeline bar appears at the top, and several profile features were switched around spaced out further. The layout change spurred several hate groups with petitions to get the old profiles back. These groups pleaded for AOL to actually allow the option to choose the old profile layout. Unfortunately AOL did not listen to them. During the transition, BEBO users had to deal with server outages and broken features.
They Changed it Now it Sucks
AOL Members just could not ever see any real value in Bebo. They described it as a “teeny bopper” site, and wondered why in the world AOL moved their profiles to a children’s site. Even teenage Americans had to put up with foreign concepts that were seemingly popular on Bebo. Ever heard of the Fittest girls? Chavs? Or how about Footy Girls? No? Believe me that has nothing to do with foot fetishes (sort of..) These are terms more often used in Europe rather than America. The types of music they listen to, the style, the shows, the drama, it was just a different experience, sort of like a culture shock…
The source described Bebo’s demise as the inevitable outcome when digital media startups are bought by more established companies. “You set out with a certain strategy and aim for a certain user experience, and they change it,” [via guardian]
I think this quote nicely described what happened to the two sites. You have a community aimed towards one market then switches to another market which then alienates the original core base.
Bebo Users Need to Face the Reality
Dear Bebo Public:
You have to realize that the way to save Bebo is to find a company who is willing to buy it. If AOL feels they are suffering a loss over the purchase of Bebo, the possible reasons to this could be due to mismanagement on their part and/or lack of revenue to cover the cost of hosting it. Realize that it’s not your fault for the demise of BEBO. It was an investment which AOL thought they could gain a profit from but in turn alienated both their own AOL members, as well as Bebo’s fan base. Realize that it can go either way. It may be cheaper for AOL to shut down Bebo rather than sell it to another company.
What can you do to save Bebo? Make your voice be heard!
There is no official text message petition statement from Vodafone. You are wasting your money. This is just Chain Mail.
Join ONE petition site to Save Bebo. It’s best to show a large number of signatures on one site rather than have 300 different petitions with 30 signatures each.
Submit BEBO related news story to sites like DIGG, Mashable, Reddit, StumbleUpon.
Convince those who have left the site to return.
Use correct spelling and grammar when submitting news and commenting.
When you submit articles or communicate in news related sites, you have to show that you are intelligent enough to care about Bebo. The community of such sites expect a level of maturity and typing poorly worded phrases with blatant misspellings of “qettinq” with “q” replacing “g” just makes the cause look even sillier.
This “Save Bebo” seems to be on the right track. You need to show the potential buyer that this site is worth the investment due to the amount of monthly unique visitors, it’s click-through rate for advertisements, and the level of activity and buzz the site generates. Proxies aren’t really a great idea to generate unique visitors since they tend to use the same IP address. Remember, if there is hardly any activity on the site, there’s no point for anyone to buy it.
Unfortunately it still means you will be subject to the greed of whichever company buys you. You will again have to go through another transition period as you did with AOL. During this time, it’s best to show the new buyers what you actually want in the website.
Ideally a company that specializes in the European markets markets (UK, Germany, Italy, and especially Ireland) is a sure fire way to keep the community as active before. For now all I can think of is a company like Vodafone to purchase the website. Though, even they are going through financial hardships.
The migration of AOL Profiles to Bebo didn’t go as smoothly as planned. For the most part there seems to be great lack of knowledge among AOL members over the inner workings of Bebo. AOL will have to address these issues in some shape or form. These issues were posted by members on various forums and websites.
Each issue is color coded based on whether a workaround exists or not. Workarounds are linked to the individual who found the solution. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to figure out all the problems you have with Bebo, However, if you find a solution to a problem please post in the comments section. I will keep this list up to date as I get notified of new details.
Unable to change gender from Male to Female
Description: Users have reported they are unable to change their gender from Male to Female. When a user changes to their appropriate gender, Bebo will reset as if the changes were not made.
AOL’s Response: No response from AOL could be found.
Workaround: No known workaround.
Bebo added extra numbers to my screen name or someone with my screen name is using my profile.
Description: Some screen names may find they have extra numbers added to their Bebo profile. Bebo will add extra numbers to your screen name if someone already registered your name before the Bebo transition. For example, if your screen name is “Sally”, and someone registered that name on Bebo before you, your Bebo profile will add numbers “Sally12″ so that both of you won’t have the same profile.
Bebo messages sent to the wrong AOL user who shares the same screen name.
Description: There are some scattered reports of AOL users who have the same screen name with another Bebo member. The AOL users who report appear to be confused that someone on Bebo registered their screen name before them and thus their screen name now has numbers added to it.
The complaints arise from AOL users who receive messages that were addressed to the original Bebo username. Unfortunately, we don’t have much information about this particular bug as very very few people reported it. It’s possible that there may be a glitch where two Bebo users are sharing the same inbox, but their profiles are entirely different. If you have a problem similar to this please comment below.
Bebo did not migrate information and photos from AOL Profiles
Description: Some users reported how their profiles were completely wiped out when they transitioned over to Bebo.
Workaround: Lucien Iteratus posted a workaround where you can access your old AIM Profiles for a limited time. Essentially you should copy information from that profile over to the Bebo profile. This backdoor has been shut down by AOL. In April 09, AOL has moved all AIM photos into Bebo.
- Copy and Paste the address below.
- Replace xx with your screen name
AOL’s Response: AOL has not addressed lost information. AIM Photos have successfully transferred over during April, 09.
Unable to edit basic profile information.
Description: Some users are unable to edit their profile information. When one tries to change this information the profile reverts back as if no changes were made.
Workaround: AOL Message board member Moondancer posted a workaround. Click “Edit Profile” at your Bebo.com profile. In the “Name” text box, make the first letter uppercase. If you change the first letter to lowercase, Bebo will not allow you to save any changes.
AOL’s Response: No response from AOL could be found.
Buddy Group “Profile Friends” shows up in your buddy List and cannot be deleted. The message “An error has occurred please try again later” appears if you try to delete the group on AOL.
Description: Some users reported a buddy group called “Profile Friends” on their AIM Buddy List. Members are unable to delete the group. The screen names of your Bebo.com friends will get added to this group. Removing your friends from Bebo will delete them from your buddy list.
Workaround: AOL Message board member Soozy posted a workaround. After April 6th, AOL has fixed this bug.
- Sign into Bebo.com with your AIM screen name.
- Click “Friends” at the top black bar in the website.
- All your friends will be listed with a Red X at the top right corner of their picture.
- Click the Red X to delete each of your friends from Bebo.com
- After you remove ALL your friends from Bebo.com, sign off of AOL or AIM.
- Sign back onto an official AOL / AIM program and the “Bebo Friends” group will be gone.
- The “Bebo Friends” group will reappear if you add a new friend to Bebo.com
- If you cancel your Bebo account, it will take 24+ hours before the buddy group is removed from your buddy list.
AOL’s Response: “At this point we do not support deleting Bebo Groups” -dev forum
Recommendation: AOL should allow the option of turning on or off your Bebo Friends group. Currently there is no way to manually delete the group without deleting all your friends.
AOL Profile module, “Code Snippet”, is missing on some profiles.
Description: In this case the AOL exclusive module, “code snippet”, is missing for AOL/AIM profiles. Bebo forbids adding AOL exclusive modules to your page even though your profile originated from AOL/AIM.
Workaround: No workaround exists yet. You can try an alternative application. If you entered text within Code Snippet before February, 2009, it will show up in your Bebo modules list.
AOL’s Response: No response from AOL could be found.
Friends from previous profile are missing with Bebo update
Description: Some friends who were added before the Bebo migration do not show up now.
Workaround: Visit your friend’s profile and manually add them back.
AOL’s Response: AOL is aware of this issue and included it in a blog posting. AOL automatically updated the missing friends during a 3/20/09 update.
Unable to edit About Me and code snippet modules
Description: Some users are unable to edit the “About Me” and “Code Snippet” module.
Workaround: Both “About Me” and “Code Snippet” modules do not support Internet Explorer 6. You will need to upgrade your browser to one of the choices presented on this browser upgrade page.
AOL’s Response: Bebo states some features are not supported by older versions of Internet Explorer.
Recommendation: Since other modules are compatible with IE6, these two modules should be reprogrammed.
[AOL/AIM Bebo Migration Guide]
The Great Divide
Time Warner plans to split AOL into two factions, an advertisement unit and a dial-up unit. The plan will be to sell off each unit to potential buyers.
Dial-up users do not make up the majority on AOL so giving them away won’t be such a big deal. Plus this means that AOL will finally have no use for India call centers, although they still might work as online tech support.
The advertising unit also known as Platform A, accounts for the whole AOL community, but mainly focuses on Ad.com. Platform A consists of tons of websites and brands all across the internet. Its a very lucrative spot to potential buyers as they will have ad spots in tons of areas including the massive AIM user base.
I am a Dial-up User, Where do I go?
Earthlink has been in talks to take over dial-up subscribers. I believe dial-up users will be switched over to an entirely new Earthlink email address, Their AOL account will automatically be switched over to free and they will be encouraged to use both emails. This is just purely speculation.
I am a Broadband User, Where do I go?
As for the advertisement unit, it looks like we’ll end up joining Microsoft or Yahoo, or hopefully someone else who wants to step up to the plate.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
The most interesting part of this merger is the drama between each of the major companies. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are battling it out to gain the largest footprint over internet advertisement revenue. If AOL merges with Yahoo, Microsoft gets upset. If AOL merges with Microsoft, Google gets upset. Added to this problem includes the recent deal Yahoo and Google are making to share advertisement plans. Microsoft isn’t so happy about that either and wants the decision blocked. I’m hoping neither of these companies buy AOL. As you can see its already a tangled mess. Joining forces with AOL will only complicate matters.
If Microsoft or Yahoo does indeed buy AOL, interoperability will finally be on the table. Whoever buys AOL will now have to integrate all AOL screennames together with the buyer’s IM service. For the first time we may finally have AIM with the ability to add Microsoft and Yahoo subscribers to the buddy list. I know many have have been clamoring for that.
The other great feature is advertisement revenue. Now Yahoo or Microsoft will have an even larger audience to host advertisements, including non-AOL owned websites that Ad.com serves.
The Buzz Around the Internets
There seems to be no agreement as to who should buy AOL. One thought is that If Microsoft buys AOL, it could allow Yahoo to prove themselves to investors that they can run independent of Microsoft. Another speculates that AOL won’t be able to save the Microsoft brand. We may find ourselves watching the same thing happen years from now when Microsoft announces it will try to sell off AOL.
During this battle, users are always the victims. If I were to choose a company that could attempt to save the AOL community to bring them back together, I would choose Yahoo. Yahoo has proven its expertise in this aspect with sites such as Yahoo Groups and Yahoo Answers.
What do you think will happen to AOL?
Post a comment on your ideas and thoughts as to what might happen to AOL. You’ll have to wait until 2009 its announced what plans AOL will be forced to make.
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