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Why the girls of Wichita, Kansas are leaving MySpace for Bebo, among others

Bebo.com, the hot social-networking company, has raised $15 million in venture capital, as widely reported.

This San Francisco-based start-up is ten months old and has taken off strongly in the UK and Ireland. Earlier this year, Bebo told us it had overtaken MySpace in the UK, but the two are essentially still neck and neck there. Bebo is the No. 1 social site in Ireland, and the largest site there overall, excepting Google. It has only ten employees, and just hired three people to open a UK office. Now Bebo is taking cash from Benchmark Capital, which chief executive Michael Birch tells us is designed to help the company maintain dominance in UK/Ireland, but also to help expand elsewhere in Europe and the U.S.

One interesting note: Birch, who is a social networking veteran, having run Ringo.com, which was sold to Tickle (now part of Monster), and Birthday Alarm, is writing off Asia. Here's what he told us yesterday: We feel that Asia is going to be dominated by two or three home-grown social networks. There is a very different cultural mix. To operate in those countries, the sites have to be incredibly different. There are language and cultural barriers, and in China it is difficult to do business at all. It is unrealistic to think that a ten-man team can overcome those hurdles, and still become dominant player in the UK and US markets.

Second interesting note: Bebo is showing strong growth, and it stems in part from having the same "limiting" features as Facebook, Birch says. Bebo wants to encourage its users to engage with their real-life community, so is shying away from a completely "open" model like MySpace, where people create Web pages independent of a community. While Bebo allows such open behavior, it is doing everything it can to encourage people to network with others they are really associated with, whether high schools friends or other. It is getting 100 million page views per day, up 30 percent in just two months. Take a look at why some girls in Wichita, Kansas are choosing Bebo over MySpace.

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Wichita, not Witchita!

Stewart on May 25, 2006 11:42 AM
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Thanks, scribe Alsop! Had it right in the text at least, but have corrected the embarrassing headline.

Matt Marshall on May 25, 2006 1:51 PM
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Why Bebo? ...when I have facebook and myspace. That's the question this post leaves me asking. And it remains unanswered after 5mins on Bebo's homepage.

See, new facebook members don't ask that question to facebook("why should i signup on facebook?") because obviously they know why: they get bugged about it 100 times a day from friends("GEEZ GET ONE FACEBOOK!")

Bebo is not facebook yet. Bebo needs early adopters like you and me. And then Bebo needs to impress you and me before we go out and talk to our friends and start a viral chain that is single handedly responsible for growth of successful communities like MySpace and Facebook.

I ask Bebo: why Bebo?

Zaid on May 25, 2006 4:28 PM
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Glad you raise that, Zaid, because it is a question all of them have to answer, not just Bebo, but MySpace too. What Birch seemed be saying is that this race is for the virgin territory -- to sign up those people who haven't committed to any one site yet. Once a group of Wichita high schoolers convene around Bebo, that's where they'll hang. But if they stumble on Facebook first, they'll hang there instead. Let's flip the question: Why MySpace?

Matt Marshall on May 25, 2006 4:34 PM
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MySpace has 76million users, that's why:) Facebook because literally my freshman year at Carolina, I would be asked by at least a few friends daily if I'm on facebook. Before that I had no intention of signing up.

Lets look at MySpace vs Facebook.

MySpace is loved for how it lets everyone exprss themself fully(allowing html, video embedding etc.)

Facebook found its niche in its clean, no-nonsense YET INSANELY addictive interface. You only have to sit in a 400-person lecture hall to see how many students are busy "Poking" on facebook on their lappies over jotting down notes.

Does Bebo have a niche? More importantly, is it positioning itself to develop a niche? For me, the answer is no - its homepage design, the flashy ads, and a name that tells me nothing don't necessarily help Bebo in a market flooded with new ventures every other day.

Zaid on May 25, 2006 7:44 PM
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Good points. Wonder if the Benchmark guys are reading this -- now they've invested in Bebo and they've reinvested in Friendster, neither having real niche. Just realized there's a geographic play though. Bebo is targeting Western markets, and Frienster looks strong in Asia. Maybe thats why Birch was telling me he really cares about the geographic angle, as in encouraging Bebo users to interact with those in their surrounding geo community.

Matt Marshall on May 25, 2006 9:07 PM
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Not sure if you've seen this before: http://blogs.zdnet.com/ITFacts/?p=10906

That ZDNet research kind of woke me up about classmates.com. Who hasn't seen a classmates.com banner ad in the last half decade. It's funny how the guys that got the ball rolling in the pre-MySpace and Facebook era get so little coverage and buzz today.

Friendster has issues to deal with as far as identifying their target audience. Even Wikipedia seems confused:)...

"Generally speaking, the members of Friendster's service are young adults in Europe, North America, and Asia aged about 21 to 30. However, even that cannot be accurately defined as there are also many other users within other regions and age groups. The largest group of users of Friendster in a region may not have the same characteristics as that from other regions, as evidenced in the larger membership of teenagers than young adults in South East Asia especially in third world countries like the Philippines and Indonesia."

Zaid Farooqui on May 25, 2006 9:37 PM
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These things all overlap on some functionality and everyone is a multiple-network member. On top of all this, AOL is supposed to be launching a "killer" app aimed at overtaking MySpace, Friendster, Bebo and the dozen or so sites out there. http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/04/19/aol-to-launch-myspace-killer/

I use http://www.simplifid.com because I'm sick of the "are you on..." question.

Bill on July 10, 2006 10:56 AM
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There is a new site tracking the number of people leaving myspace for another site. The site is called www.goodbyemojo.com

john on August 29, 2006 9:12 PM
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