AOL Gets Social

futurethink AOL Bebo

AOL recently announced its purchase of Bebo, the third most popular social networking site on the web (behind Myspace and Facebook) for $850 million. From the New York Times:

“Bebo combines the features of Facebook with the focus on media and self-expression of MySpace. The three-year-old site is most prominent in Britain, where the measurement firm comScore recorded 11.4 million unique visitors in January. The site had 4.1 million visitors in the United States, comScore said.”

This announcement is an interesting one, for sure, as it lends online social networks an even greater degree of credibility and legitimacy. AOL plans to integrate its popular AIM instant messaging platform into Bebo (or vice versa), thereby fusing the implied social network of an online “Buddy List” with additional social features from the media-focused Bebo.

What’s so interesting is how the world of social networking is slowly beginning to trickle down into other web services. Email, photo-sharing, and other relatively established web-services and properties are now beginning to get a little more social. Anyone who has used AIM before knows that users began setting up profiles with pictures, information, and their favorite quotes long before “social networking” was even on the Web’s collective radar. In some sense, AIM was the original social network.

That said, the folks at The Economist don’t seem to think social networks will prove to have any viable sort of monetization strategy (though we think it’s still too early to tell). Either way, the AOL/Bebo deal is great news for both companies. Learn more at the New York Times.

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