PROS / Bebo's security settings are tight, even at account set up.
CONS / You cannot search friends by name, school or city.
VERDICT / Bebo would be a good social network if anyone still used it.
Bebo, a worldwide social networking site, was launched in 2005. In the 2000s, Bebo boomed in English-speaking countries, such as Ireland, England and New Zealand. In recent years, Bebo has been revamped with a brand-new site design. It has added notifications for account activity and inbox messages in the past few years as well.
Bebo is relatively easy to use. The tabs are clearly marked based on profile, photos, games and video options. Once you get past the ads that show up on the screen, you can filter top stories or the most recent updates. This is a great feature when you want to see what your friends are up to, but the feature is copied straight from the top social networking sites that we ranked far higher than Bebo. One huge improvement that Bebo has made over other social network sites is how you reply to status updates. Typically, you only have the option to like them or add a comment. Bebo allows you to tag the update with cool, funny, sorry, OMG or agree, or to leave a comment. This makes your response much more mood specific.
Bebo profiles are a lot of fun, and there are a huge number of personalization choices. There is a large database of skins for you to choose from. Skins are submitted by other Bebo users, and unlike some third-party skins on competing social media sites, there is no risk for spyware or viruses. Although you can't customize your profile with HTML or CSS codes, the skins are versatile enough to please most users.
Bebo is the only site we reviewed that automatically defaults your profile to private. If you want your profile to be public, you have to manually change your security settings. Also, Bebo suggests that members under 21 include only the first letter of their last names as a safety precaution. You can also limit the ages of people you want contacting you by setting a minimum and maximum age in your account settings.
Bebo users can only browse featured profiles. You can't freely browse or search for members by specific criteria. This adds a level of security that many sites do not have; however, it also limits members' ability to expand their network of friends. To search for friends, you have to upload your address book to Bebo and it will find your friends' profiles by email addresses. Or you can type in individual email addresses and hunt for your friends that way. You cannot search the Bebo database by name, school or city.
Bebo still has a long road ahead if it ever wants to lead the market in social media. At one time, it had features strong enough to lead the charge, but it has now become a copycat service with little originality. We appreciate the seriousness with which it addresses security. For Bebo to rank as a stronger social networking site, we'd like to see a better search and browse feature.