Bebo has high hopes for doomed relaunch

“iee dnt like this upgrade ;)”, says one user.  “i LOVE YOU HENaRe PeHI alwaes 4 eva and Long Lyfe TiME:-),” says another. Social networking haunt for 13-year-olds Bebo is aiming for a refresh.

Following News International’s backing of the neither-right-nor-wrong horse in MySpace, AOL bought Bebo back in 2008, but it quickly slipped down the rankings of preferred social networking services. It found its niche in being mentioned on the Jeremy Kyle Show, participants quoting sex messages during infidelity rows. It was also a pre-tweeny-tweeny Myspace. It was rather popular in the UK and Ireland once upon a time.

But it was resold last year on the cheap, and its new owners want to do something with it rather than let it rot. It wants to steal some share of the domineering Facebook by taking the young market it was once famous for from its successful rival – using its own tools against it by integrating Facebook Connect. 

You can log in with Facebook and import Gmail contacts, which is useful for accidentally digging up ages-old Bebo profiles your friends and colleagues really would rather you didn’t see.

The relaunch says that the site will allow you to “Share the Real You” – talking up a customised spot on the web. We’re not sure there are any animated gifs left in the world wide web for new users. There’s also social gaming and video chat included. The overall lay-out is cleaner and there are some new emoticons, which actually seem to be going down a treat if you look at the homepage feed. We expect some users will return, viewing it as a Curio.

Still, it’s hard to see how Bebo can hope to compete with the big guns. With social gaming – such as Zynga and co. – successfully entrenched in the Facebook platform it offers little unique experiences apart from a bizarre plethora of Web 1.5 throwbacks who are stuck in the murky world of txt spk, pc4pc and top-down webcam shots. 

Some special advisers have been found in the Living Michael Jackson, who has probably heard all of them before – he used to be controller at Channel 4. He introduced the plague of Big Brother to the UK’s television.