Bebo was a social networking website launched in 2005, that now describes itself as "a company that dreams up ideas for fun social apps;" Grant Denholm, the man behind the Bebo relaunch, has confirmed that the site will not be returning as a social network but as a company that makes social apps. The company launched the app Blab in early 2014; it closed in 2016. In December 2014 a new version of Bebo launched as an avatar hashtag messaging app. As of July 2013, it is owned and operated by its founders Michael Birch and Xochi Birch, who took over from Criterion Capital Partners after the company declared bankruptcy.
Bebo was founded by husband-and-wife team Michel and Xochi Birch in January 2005 at their home in San Francisco . The website name was bought by the founders, and the backronym "Blog Early, Blog Often" was invented to answer the question of what the name meant.
The website, at the height of its popularity, overtook Myspace to become the most widely used social networking website in the United Kingdom , eventually registering at least 10.7 million unique users. The site was also extremely popular in Ireland – at one point it claimed to have over a million Irish users, and data from Alexa ranked it as Ireland's most-visited site. Its popularity saw it sold to AOL for $850 million in 2008.
The site was purchased by AOL on March 13, 2008 for $850 million, with the Birches' combined 70% stake yielding a profit of $595 million from the deal. The BBC later described the AOL purchase of Bebo as "one of the worst deals ever made in the dotcom era", and it cost the then-CEO of AOL, Randy Falco, his job.
On April 7, 2010, AOL announced that it would either sell the website, or shut it down. This was mainly due to the falling numbers of unique users; Bebo users were moving to rival site Facebook. AOL said that Bebo could not compete with other social networking sites in its current state, and that the company could not commit to taking on the massive task to keep Bebo in the social network 'race'. It has been reported that AOL's finances were struggling.
The National Space Agency of Ukraine's RT-70 radio telescope sent 501 messages chosen by Bebo users, called A Message From Earth, toward planet Gliese 581c. Sent on 9 October 2008, it will arrive in the spring of 2028.  
On February 17, 2011, Bebo launched a brand-new design. This consisted of a new, more modern header and home page, as well as a new profile layout option. Users could also see who had visited their profiles (a feature which could be changed in settings). In April 2011, Bebo added a new notification system, similar to Facebook's - a feature which had been much-requested in feedback. It notified users of new inbox messages, lifestream activity and more.
On January 30, 2012, access to Bebo became unavailable for 36 hours, resuming normal service during the early hours of February 1, 2012. A Bebo spokesperson told TechCrunch that the site was down due to "a technical clusterfuck". Adam Levin, CEO of Bebo and Criterion Capital Partners, stated that they were trying to release some new features which caused the site to crash. No data was lost as a result of the outage. The crash triggered a belief that Bebo was gone for good, so that the hashtag #bebomemories trended worldwide on Twitter.
In May 2013, the company voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. However, Burke Capital Corporation receiver has clarified that Bebo remains "healthy" and "operating," and that the company was using its May 9 Chapter 11 filing in Los Angeles to "restructure some operational inefficiencies and other arrangements that are burdensome." Many analysts have questioned the value proposition that Bebo could offer users and do not fault CCP.
On July 1, 2013, Michael and Xochi Birch, the original founders, purchased the social network back from Criterion Capital Partners (CCP) for $1 million. They tweeted "We just bought Bebo back for $1m. Can we actually re-invent it? Who knows, but it will be fun trying."
On August 6, 2013, messages were posted on Bebo.com informing users that the site would be down for maintenance from August 7, 2013. On August 7, 2013, a video featuring Michael announcing his plan for the new Bebo was placed on the front page of the site. The video informed users that the site would be taken down while the Bebo team developed the new product. Many believed that this would be normal maintenance; however, it was revealed that the site would be closed for a few months. The announcement also stated that all user content had been deleted, but users' blog posts and images would be retrievable in downloadable format should members opt in to receive this. However, members who submitted emails still have not retrieved profile data (pictures, blogs, etc.).
In April, 2014 Bebo founder Michael Birch took to Bebo in a tongue-in-cheek video to promote the re-launch of Bebo with the slogan, "Probably Not for Boring People". The relaunch video emphasized Bebo's history in which it included its then-most popular feature: the white board.
Bebo relaunched on January 7, 2015; announced with the new Bebo was a messenger app called Bebo Blab which was available on Google Play and Apple App stores. The app massed 3.9 million users in just one year. After two years of its re-launch Bebo Blab shut down, as users weren’t returning to the platform to watch archived streams on replay. Birch wrote:
“Blab was great in many ways, but it wasn’t going to be an everyday thing for millions. So we’re kicking down the sandcastle, and re-building it as an ‘always on’ place to hang with friends.”
As of April 19, 2018, the site offers a multi-feature Twitch streaming software (similar to Open Broadcaster Software or XSplit).
Users received a personal profile page where they would post blogs, photographs, music, videos, and questionnaires, which other users may answer. Additionally, users could add others as friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves.
Each Bebo User received a profile, which included two specific modules: a comment section where other users could leave a message, and a list of the user's friends. Users could select from many more modules to add. By default, when an account was created the profile was private, which limited access to friends specifically added. The user could select the "Public Profile" option so the profile would still be visible to any other members of a school they may have joined. Bebo was youth based and the initial group of connections was based on others from the same school or schools they attended. Profiles may be personalized by a design template that is the background of the user's profile, known as a skin. Profiles also included quizzes which offer multiple choice, polls for their friends to vote in and comment on, photo albums which allows the user to upload an unlimited number of images with a maximum limit of 96 per album, blogs with a comments section, a list of bands of which the user is a fan, a list of groups that the user is a member of. A "Video Box" may be added, either hot-linked from YouTube or copied from a Bebo Media Content Provider's page.
Other features included:
Bebo runs on servers running the Resin Server and uses the Oracle Database system. It is estimated that Bebo had somewhere between 5000 and 8000 Phantom4 servers provided by Rackable Systems and has over 100TB of disk space across all of their servers.
Announced on the November 13, 2007, Bebo's Open Media Platform is a platform for companies to distribute content to the Bebo community. Content providers can bring their media player to Bebo, and monetize the advertising within it. Each content provider has a specialised page designed for video which showcases any Adobe Flash video content at the top of the profile. Many networks are signed up for the service, including CBS, Sky, Ustream.tv, BBC and Last.fm.
Bebo joined OpenSocial, a set of common APIs for building social applications across the web. It announced plans for a developers platform and said it will make a further platform announcement. Bebo's Open Application Platform was launched in early December 2007 with just over fifty applications and is now host to hundreds.
On May 21, 2008, some users in New Zealand were temporarily given full access to other users' accounts. Bebo network engineers traced the error to a misconfigured proxy server in an Internet service provider (ISP) in New Zealand, which was later corrected. The ISP seemed to be interfering with its cache, thereby causing some of its customers to receive cached cookies and details from other users, likely because the ISP used dynamic IP addresses.