we were lamenting about Bebo's lack of innovation in the online social networking space. Here it was 2009 and they were only just now releasing tools that would help take Bebo mobile. Once again, it looked like Bebo was following the industry leaders...and doing so far too late. But now it seems Bebo may have something up their sleeve that's going to make us eat our words. Apparently, the company is planning a major reinvention of their social network which may have us giving them a second look.Earlier this week,
After hearing the rumor about a "new Bebo," we asked the company to confirm. Although they wouldn't provide any specific details, a company representative did say that we'll see a new version of the site launch later this month.
According to Silicon Alley Insider, the new site's biggest addition will be "Timelines," a feature that integrates your photos, videos, and blog posts into a lifestream of sorts that will appear on your user profile page. The Bebo representative said the mockups posted by SAI were "old," but they didn't call them out as being either fake or inaccurate.
This new look for Bebo's lifestream will build on the "Social Inbox" and lifestreaming features launched on the site back in December. That recent addition allowed Bebo users to aggregate their Twitter updates, Flickr photos, and AIM friends along with their webmail from either Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL. (The press release at the time also referred to Delicious as being a launch partner, but after a long hiatus from Bebo, I logged in once again and Delicious is nowhere to be found.)
The social web activity aggregation comes directly from Bebo's parent company AOL's acquisition of Socialthing!, a lifestreaming competitor similar to FriendFeed. Later this month, that social aggregation will apparently be expanded upon in the upcoming version, complete with additional privacy controls and the ability to control your online activities on multiple services from within Bebo, reports SAI. The screenshots they posted also showed that MySpace and Facebook will be included in the new lifestream.
We don't have any official confirmation from the company regarding the MySpace/Facebook integration, but a source recently told us that MySpace is most likely a given, but adding Facebook was trickier...and that Facebook isn't too happy with Bebo about it.
That's easy to believe - Facebook is notorious for making if difficult, if not impossible, to extract RSS feeds relating to your friends' activities so that you have a reason to keep returning to their social network. (Discuss this!) However, you can extract RSS feeds for your own activity, including status updates, posted items, and notes, so this is one theory as to how Bebo could provide Facebook integration - by having their users add the Facebook "My Status" RSS URL to their Bebo profiles. However, we're curious if they've come up with something even more clever and crafty than that.
We're also being told that the new improved version of the social network will have a more grown-up look-and-feel. Is it possible that Bebo has a much brighter future than many give it credit for? We certainly hope so, at least for Bebo's sake.
Image credits: Silicon Alley Insider