Friday, April 9, 2010

Bye bye Bebo

So long, Bebo. I won't miss you -- maybe now I can get to know my friends again in person. (From yesterday's Evening Herald)

By Susan Daly

Thursday April 08 2010

IT might sound a bit harsh to call a five-year-old a has-been. In the whizzy world of the internet though, half a decade is a long time. Bebo, born in 2005, has reached its sell-by date.

Technology giant AOL paid megabucks -- 850 million of them -- to acquire the social networking website two years ago. Now it has announced that it will be trying to sell its out-of-favour purchase. If all else fails, it will simply shut it down.

Wow. That's pretty brutal.

If Bebo were a boyband that had been jilted by its record label, we'd be bracing ourselves for the pictures of the cute one getting fat and the one with the talent starting to write hits for other, younger, starlets. In technology, as in the pop industry, when you're hot, you're white-hot. When you're not, you're stone-cold. There is no sentimentality and things get old real quickly.

It's so long Hannah Montana and hello Justin Bieber. (If you don't know who that is yet, ask a passing eight-year-old).

It might be worth bringing up the cautionary tale of Bebo the next time someone tells you that you absolutely must get on board the next big thing in technology. Beware anything that relies on mob rule to stay viable. The mob shifts its loyalty elsewhere and you're left alone, the only kid in your virtual playground.

Bebo needed to keep attracting new members. Every year saw a new launch -- Bebo Music, Bebo Books, Bebo Groups -- all promising to add to the experience of being part of the website's following.

Bless them, they tried so hard, and it's not entirely Bebo's fault. It's ours, we the public at As soon as something better or newer comes along, we're off.

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone but myself here. I opened a Bebo profile in 2005 when a friend sent an 'invitation' to everyone in her email address book. As long as the site remains open, it's probably still up there, listing my mid-Noughties likes (Britney Spears circa Toxic) and dislikes (White Chicks, the film).

Then the heat moved to MySpace, and so did I. I didn't even manage to get as far as specifying my gender on a profile there before Facebook caught my eye. Now I find myself drifting away from that too. I think the fatal bullet was when my aunt asked if I would be her friend on 'Myface'.

Now it's all about the quick buzz of updating my status 20 times a day on Twitter and instant messaging 'Twitpals'.

I'm enjoying it right now -- I work from home, so to me it's like access to an instant office canteen -- but I notice some of my old 'colleagues' have been checking in less frequently as of late. The novelty has worn off.

We didn't always need this constant change of scenery.

Why is it that for years we were happy enough with the eight-track tape and a clunky Walkman as the cutting-edge way to make music mobile?

Now, if your MP3 player is bigger than your fingernail, you're a Luddite.

It also seems that the easier that communication has become, the more difficult it has been to remain satisfied by it for even the briefest period of time.

Scientists have started to identify a strain of this perennial state of dissatisfaction. They're calling it adult ADHD.

The roots of this syndrome are behavioural. The more we are surrounded by distractions, the more we crave them.

I heard a word this week that made me step away from my netbook. 'Lapglancing': the act of watching TV while simultaneously tapping away at a laptop on your knee.

Remember what the word 'Bebo' actually stands for? 'Blog Early, Blog Often'. Now, isn't that an imperious call to the keyboard? It says something about the imperative, demanding nature of these 'social' sites. It implies that if you're not in, you can't win. And if you're not winning, then by definition, you're a loser.

It should be a comfort to know that these bits of gadgetry are ephemeral.

Bebo was the cool kid yesterday, but an outcast today.

It might remind us that we are lucky enough to still have real, live friends who are pretty much always where we last left them -- at the other end of the phone. (Okay, make the call on your iPhone if you must).

I think I'll invite some pals over for an evening of old-fashioned 'video-sharing', ie: watch a movie together, sitting on the same sofa in the same room.

Some things will never go out of fashion.


1 comment:

  1. I was invited by an Indian friend to Orkut back in 2005 - Google's social networking site. Hardly any Irish people there - Orkut was dominted by Brazilians and south Asians. It was worth it only for the discussion forums, which were fiery battles between crazed Islamist Pakistanis, crazed Hindu-nationalist Indians, crazed anti-Muslim Westerners and the occasional friendly Brazilian.

    Mental stuff! But I've stuck with it because there I've seen the development of real online communities. I actually made friends (kind of, I'll never meet most of them) there, and learned a lot. Orkut, never fashionable in Ireland, ended up being the most stable attraction for me of all the social networking sites :)