Bebo’s “Irish Invasion”

Reading this post at Piaras Kelly’s blog, I was struck by something — I never realised quite how bizarre the situation with Bebo is. If you check out the Google Trends ‘country’ tab, Ireland is the only country listed — meaning that search volume for “bebo” is infinitesimal, by comparison, elsewhere! (Update: Ireland was the only country listed, because the URL used limited it to Ireland only. However, the point is still valid when other countries are included, too ;)

It is also destroying Myspace as a search term on the Irish internet. (Update: also fixed)

As a US-based company, they must be mystified by all this attention — the Brazilian invasion of Orkut has nothing on this ;)

I’ll recycle a comment I made on Joe Drumgoole’s weblog as to why this happened:

My theory is that social networking systems, like Bebo, Myspace, linkedin, Friendster, Tribe.net, Orkut, Facebook etc. have all developed their own emergent specialisations. These are entirely driven by their users — although the sites can attempt to push or pull in certain directions (such as Friendster banning ‘non-person’ accounts), fundamentally the users will drive it. All of those sites have massively different user populations; Tribe has the Burning Man crowd, Friendster the daters, Orkut the brazilians etc.

Next, I think kids of school age form a set of small set of cliques. They don’t want to appear cool to friends thousands of miles away, on the internet; they want to appear cool to their peer group in their local school. So all it takes is a group of influential ‘tastemakers’ — the alpha males and females in a year – to go onto Bebo, and it becomes the site for a certain school; and given enough of that, it’ll spread to other schools, and soon Bebo becomes the SNS for the irish school system. In other words, Irish kids couldn’t really care less what US kids think of them; they want to be cool locally.

Also I think MySpace has a similar problem to Orkut — it’s already ‘owned’ by a population somewhere else, who are talking about stuff that makes little sense to Irish teenagers. As a result, it’s not being used as a social system here in Ireland; instead, it’s just used by musicians who want a cheap place to host a few tracks without having to set up their own website.

(Aside: part of the latter is driven by clueless local press coverage of the Arctic Monkeys – they have latched onto their success, put the cart before the horse, and decided that they were somehow ‘made’ by hosting music on MySpace, rather than by the attention of their fans. duh!)

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8 Comments

  1. Posted May 18, 2006 at 15:11 | Permalink

    I think you’ve got it quite right. I used to use ICQ until circa-2000 when I switched over to using MSN most of the time, quite simply because that’s what 99% of my friends were using. It wasn’t a technology thing, it was a social thing.

  2. Cormac B
    Posted May 18, 2006 at 17:26 | Permalink

    I think there is something wrong with the link you posted where Ireland only showed up. I tried it manually and UK, NZ come up 2nd and 3rd. http://www.google.com/trends?q=bebo Ireland is still first though.

    In your link Tallaght is the place that most searches for it. In my link it is Limerick.

    As for bebo being popular? It tries to trick people into letting it into their address books. One girl in my college ended up emailing everybody- even the evening students her bebo invitation. A bit embarrasing.

  3. Posted May 18, 2006 at 17:49 | Permalink

    Companies are like high schools.

    I went to work for a company where a lot of people were on LinkedIn, so I started using that. I was invited to the site before, and made an account, but forgot about it and didn’t use it.

  4. Posted May 18, 2006 at 18:05 | Permalink

    Cormac –

    that’s because the link was limited to Ireland only, and I didn’t spot it. oops ;). updating post now…

  5. ben
    Posted May 18, 2006 at 20:02 | Permalink

    I think the “destroying Myspace” link should be:

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=bebo%2C+myspace&ctab=1&geo=IE&date=all

  6. some dude
    Posted May 19, 2006 at 07:05 | Permalink

    Hey, to the first commenter, Jon Dowland:

    Your last name, unscrambled, spells: Download

    How do you like that?

  7. Posted May 19, 2006 at 13:26 | Permalink

    You’ve hit on the compelling dimension of localisation–or the reverse of it. If something doesn’t feel localised, it is less appealing. So you have communities like boards.ie in Ireland totally consuming parts of the tech population that might have normally gone to Slashdot. Instead, boards.ie feels more like their kind of crowd. I wonder what demographic is served by Second Life?

  8. Posted May 19, 2006 at 14:13 | Permalink

    some dude: I find a lot of people from Turkey and Poland misspell download as my last name. Which is weird.