The end of the line for Bebo?

Well. Yesterday was a disappointing day for the tech industry, wasn't it?
First of all, there was the reading and debating of the controversial Digital Economy Bill in parliament - a Bill which elicited 20,000 letters of complaint and five and a half hours of debate - but only persuaded 10 MPs to sit through the entire session.

And then there was the news Bebo may be shut down by its owner, AOL, after they realised it can't compete against the juggernaut-esque effects of rivals like Facebook.

In an email sent to employees yesterday, the head of AOL's startup acquisition and investment unit, Jon Brod, told employees Bebo is "a business that has been declining and would require significant investment 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," he added.

While the news is likely to cause distress among pre-teens on both sides of the Atlantic, founders Michael and Xochi Birch will be sighing with relief.
Rumours have been circulating about the website's closure almost since its $850m (£417m) sale hit the record books back in 2008 - as has wide condemnation of the sale, most notably by US journalist Jeff Jarvis, who pointed out that AOL is often the place innovation goes 'to die', citing Netscape, ICQ and even Time Warner as further examples.

Whether the Birches foresaw the network's eventual decline or not, there is an argument AOL played an active role in hammering nails into its coffin: while other social networks' advertising platforms have burgeoned, Bebo has lain unloved at the bottom of the AOL toybox, failing to make the most of advertising opportunities when it integreated its AIM/ICQ messaging platform late last year.

They say all good things must come to an end, and it looks as though Bebo's fate is already written. Still, you can't fault the Birches' timing: a few months later, and their fortunes may have met a very similar fate.

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