Bebo launches video chat to attract users
The new owners of Bebo, the British-founded social network, have launched a video chat feature, in a bid to lure more users to the once hugely popular site.
‘bChat’, will allow Bebo users to talk to each other via their webcams and hopes to introduce new people to one another who have similar interests.
Bebo, the former one-time darling of social networks, was off-loaded by AOL earlier this year to Criterion Capital Partners for less than $10m, despite paying $850m for it only two years earlier, to UK developer Michael Birch and his partner Xochi.
AOL admitted that Bebo was a business in decline, requiring significant investment in order to compete in the crowded social networking space, largely dominated by Facebook.
Adam Levin, Bebo’s chief executive, has been ramping up investment in the site since his company purchased it just over five months ago and hopes new features like bChat will help the site retain former users and attract new ones.
He told The Telegraph: “I think we can coexist really well with Facebook as Bebo is a platform now focused on self-expression. Not everyone wants to be on a platform where their Mum and Dad are members.
“It’s all about reactivating the registered users, who will then tell new users to come and check out new tools and content we are putting on the site.”
bChat is powered by vChatter, a social video chat platform, which connects random Bebo users based on their social preferences, geography, age and interests via webcam. Facebook does not yet offer video chat through its Instant Messenger tool.
Keen to stress the security of the platform, a spokesman said: “The video conferencing technology monitors user activity to ensure user interactions are safe and clean; and their advanced matching process means connections between people are more likely to be relevant and interesting.
“Video chat with vChatter brings the human element to online communication and we think bChat will be a great opportunity for Bebo members to develop friendships with other members they haven’t had a chance to meet," explained Will Bunker, chief executive of vChatter.
bChat will be rolled out imminently around the world, and is the first of such developments for Bebo, which is also investing in original web drama and a new gaming platform.
Bebo currently has 117 million registered users globally. However, less than 12 million are active.