Bebo attempts the near-impossible: A comeback

Remember the popular ’90s social networking app Bebo? Yeah, me neither.

The Facebook predecessor, which dominated British social networking for awhile, sold to AOL for $850 million in 2008. The corporate behemoth wasted no time at all in killing it.

But Bebo will not go softly into that dark night. In July of 2013, founder Michael Birch, with the help of his business wingman Shaan Puri, bought back the brand for a pittance of what he sold it for. Last week, he relaunched it.

The new Bebo is a whole new beast. Gone is the social network of yore, and in its place is — what else? — a chatting application.

Bebo is now all about the custom avatar, letting you pick from a range of hair styles, colors, skin tones, glasses, clothing, and accessories. Then when you chat with a friend on the app you can animate your avatar using hashtags. Check me and Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover in #goddamnit, #chucknorris, #Snapchat #firstworldproblems #ohsnap and #hashtags. There’s no one set list of hashtag illustration options — you have to play with the app to figure out what you can animate. But the options seemed endless.

Clockwise from top left: #goddamnit, #ChuckNorris, #Snapchat, #firstworldproblems, #OhSnap, and #hashtags

Clockwise from top left: #goddamnit, #ChuckNorris, #Snapchat, #firstworldproblems, #OhSnap, and #hashtags

Within minutes of chatting with Hoover, I started feeling unnaturally fond of my avatar, like she was my little sister in the cartoon dimension or something. One of my favorite features was a custom emoji keyboard that automatically populated in the app, turning regular winky faces and smirks into an approximation of your own face. I wish they’d break it out into a third-party keyboard that integrates with regular iOS 8 messaging.

carmelemojisIt’s easy to dismiss Bebo as yet another frivolous first world app. And it totally is. But the app gives chatting an element of personalization, emotion, and imagery.

It could do for messaging what the emoticon did for text: Add a layer of sentiment that was previously hard to translate. Given that we’re moving to an increasingly chat centric world, that matters.

But that’s only if you dream big for Bebo. In reality, the app will struggle to convince people to download it in this noisy app environment. There’s a cognitive barrier to the conversations themselves, where you feel the need to conjure up witty hashtags in the hopes they’ll turn into funny pictures. In other words, it’s not an entirely natural way to chat.

Could it overcome those problems and revamp the Bebo brand? I guess we’ll see; after all, #YOLO.

The #YOLO animation on Bebo

The #YOLO animation on Bebo

Trouble in Tinseltown

Turnstiles have been slowing at domestic theaters for much of the past decade, with only a brief respite in 2006 and a short-lived spike in attendance in 2009 due to the release of Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time. Ticket-price inflation and the introduction of 3D films helped mask the effect for a while, but with the 3D premium eroding as the novelty has worn off and the weak economy and growing competition for entertainment dollars now keeping overall ticket inflation in check, the erosion of the movie audience is plain to see.

Today in Connected Consumer

To hear Hollywood execs tell it, piracy is the greatest threat the movie industry faces today, requiring extraordinary legislative measures to combat it. But there’s another, more fundamental problem lurking that the studios don’t want to talk about and isn’t fixable with legislation: the long-term erosion of movie audiences. Total ticket sales have been declining for the past three years, but the effect has been masked by a handful of popular 3D titles that carry higher ticket prices and raise total grosses. Without a lot of 3D in the market at the moment, however, the missing audiences are harder to miss. Where did everyone go? A lot of them seem to be playing video games, helping make Activision’s Call of Duty 3 the fastest selling entertainment product in history. It took CoD 3 only 16 days to reach $1 billion in sales, one day faster than Avatar.

How to create an avatar for work-related virtual worlds

As virtual worlds become prevalent in business, we need to learn how to present ourselves effectively. Since first impressions count just as they do in face-to-face teams, we need to take our virtual appearance seriously. In these environments, appearance is based on our avatars.

Web Work Sci-Fi: Floating Avatars for Telecommuters

Here on WebWorkerDaily we regularly cover new collaboration tech, from virtual phone systems to multiuser video chat apps. All of these offer incremental improvements on the tech available to web workers, but what radical new tech tools might be in the distant future of remote collaboration?

Can In-Office Avatars Help Out-of-Office Employees?

To help counter the disconnection faced by telecommuters, Anybots offers a physical avatar, which displays a video at about eye-level as well as can be driven around a facility. All a remote team member needs to use the robotic avatar is a web browser.

Have Some Halloween Photo Fun with Your iPhone

Want to add some social mobile fun to this Halloween? How about taking some of the snapshots you’re taking with your iPhone, and turning them into cartoon avatars for Facebook or Twitter? The process is easy, and all you need are a few apps.

Hollywood Gouges Theater-goers for Record Summer Box Office

Hollywood studios are riding high on record box office receipts, despite the lowest attendance in five years. Those record revenues are mostly the result of higher ticket prices for 3-D and other premium films showings, but come as theaters have raised prices for nearly all films.

Avatar Tops in First-Week Blu-ray Sales

After posting record box office sales in the U.S. and worldwide, James Cameron’s Avatar can add another record to its trophy case after being tops in first-week Blu-ray disc sales. According to sales data from Nielsen, the sci-fi action flick sold more Blu-ray discs in its first week than The Dark Knight, The Hangover and 2009’s Star Trek, with half of its physical media sales being in the hi-def format.

The previous leader for DVD sales, 2008’s The Dark Knight, sold just 62 percent of the number of Blu-ray discs shipped for Avatar. Other runners up, like The Hangover (40 percent) and Star Trek (34 percent) sold significantly less. Blu-ray discs made up nearly half — 49 percent — of all Avatar sales. The rest were traditional DVDs.

Read More about Avatar Tops in First-Week Blu-ray Sales

Avatar: The Making of the Bootleg: It’s Funny Because it’s True

So James Cameron’s 3-D Fern Gully remake hasn’t just revolutionized film technology — as depicted by the sketch comedy troupe Free Love Forum, it’s also inspiring a whole new generation of bootleggers.

The irony, of course, is that a quick Google search confirms that torrents for Avatar bootlegs are out in full force — and not just versions captured by sneaky theatergoers with handheld cameras, but what appear to be high-quality DVD rips. Even so, Avatar has been doing just fine at the box office — because as one bootlegger from the short puts it, you do want to watch it “on a reasonably-sized screen.”