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Facebook Smackdown: AOL to Shut or Offload Bebo

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This Internet ain't big enough for the both of us...

"Blog early, blog often" - or Bebo, as it is more commonly known - has become the latest victim of the soar away success of Facebook today with owner AOL saying it will look to offload the site.

"In an annual filing for Bebo we will make tomorrow, AOL will indicate that it is currently evaluating strategic alternatives, which could include a sale or shut down of Bebo in 2010," said AOL Venture exec VP Jon Brod in a memo to employees yesterday. "As we evaluate our portfolio of brands against our strategy, it is clear that social networking is a space with heavy competition, and where scale defines success."

"Bebo, unfortunately, is a business that has been declining and, as a result, would require significant investment in order to compete in the competitive social networking space. AOL is not in a position at this time to further fund and support Bebo in pursuing a turnaround in social networking. AOL is committed to working quickly to determine if there are any interested parties for Bebo and the company's current expectation is to complete our strategic evaluation by the end of May 2010."
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Bebo opened in January 2005 and had established itself as a young person's network, but like MySpace, Orkut and others has struggled to compete with the waves of people joining Facebook. It peaked with around 40m users at the time AOL bought the site for what seemed a bargain $850m, but has been in a tailspin ever since with talk rife of internal conflict between the two organisations.

It is rumoured total user numbers have plummeted to around 12m, though there remains a stronghold of about 1m in the UK.

If AOL can find a buyer the price will likely be something we could pay out of our loose change, but the bigger question is: who wants to take on Facebook? With over 400m users worldwide it is becoming strange to find friends who aren't signed up and has become a by word for social networking in the same way 'Google' has become a phrase for search.

Speaking of which, is that where Facebook's next serious competition will come from: Google Buzz? *Rolls eyes* Nope, it's hopeless...

Update: For those who asked (and those who didn't), TrustedReviews' social networking is mainly on Twitter where you can find opinions from @andyvan (Andy) @trustedchester (Ed) and @gordonkelly (quite obviously, me) alongside the @trustedreviews content feed.

Links:
Via BBC News
Bebo

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