June 23, 2011
No, nor does anyone else. Except, I guess, Randy Falco, the hapless AOL manager who signed off the $850 million to buy it just three years ago. Oh, and, of course, Joanna Shields the brilliant ex-Google exec who engineered that spectacular deal for a business already in decline.
Shields is now with Facebook. Is it possible that behemoth will someday need her stardust sprinkling skills? Surely not, surely it is the ultimate 800lb primate that sits where it wants, and right now, that’s on top of a multi, multi, billion dollar valuation.
In truth, I do remember Bebo a bit, and was astonished, and astonishingly impressed, when Shields secured that deal. I remember that less than a year before the sale, my younger children, then just pre-teenage, were all about Bebo and so were all their friends. My older daughter, then 16 or so, was already Facebook, and so were all her friends. Then, one day, I noticed the younger ones were suddenly all Facebook too. I was informed Bebo was ‘so yesterday’ and everyone had switched – just like that, almost literally, over night.
Sure enough, within weeks it was known Bebo’s numbers were no longer trending up and within months the deal was done. Now Bebo is part of Criterion Capital’s orphanage for unloved and unwanted online ventures.
Criterion is never likely to get its hands on Facebook in the same way. But recent news stories about users signing-off in America, Canada and parts of Europe and a growing trend for members to cut back on their ‘friends’ list could be the first tiny cracks, the first miniscule signs of chronic ‘social media fatigue’. And, as Bebo showed, in the same way popularity is viral, so is unpopularity.
Both Bebo and, ironically, AOL demonstrated that today’s sure fire winner can be tomorrow’s has-been. Could it happen to the biggest Internet phenomenon yet? Unlikely, but never, ever, say never.