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Bebo's future under threat after struggling to compete with Facebook and MySpace

Social networking website Bebo could be wiped from computer screens forever after its owners revealed plans to shut it down.
Just two years after buying the site for £557million, struggling internet company AOL said it needed 'significant investment' to remain competitive.
An email to staff added that the company was not in a position to provide the funding, and was looking for a buyer.

Trouble: AOL will close Bebo if it cannot find a buyer, less than 
two years after buying it for $850m
Trouble: AOL will close Bebo if it cannot find a buyer, less than two years after buying it for $850m

Although Bebo has been overshadowed by the likes of MySpace and Facebook, it has been strong in foreign markets, including Britain.

AOL wanted to tap that strength abroad to drive traffic to AOL's other free, ad-supported websites, as well as building its U.S. audience by teaming it with lice chat programs.
But Bebo's audience has instead been slipping in the U.S.
According to comScore Inc., Bebo had 5.1million U.S. users in February, down from 5.8million a year earlier and a sliver of the 210million that Facebook has.
Jon Brod, who runs AOL's startup acquisition and investment unit said AOL will look for potential buyers and plans to finish a strategic evaluation by the end of May.
The $850million in cash that AOL paid for San Francisco-based Bebo in May 2008 made it AOL's largest deal since it bought MapQuest for $1billion (£655.7million) in 2000.
At the time, AOL was still joined with Time Warner Inc., but it separated from the media conglomerate late last year.
AOL, a pioneer in the dial-up Internet business during the '90s, has been trying to streamline and concentrate on rebuilding itself as a content and advertising business.
It runs dozens of websites, including popular tech blog Engadget and personal finance site WalletPop.
Clayton Moran, an analyst at The Benchmark Co., said the price AOL paid for Bebo was questioned from the start.
'It made a lot of industry watchers scratch their heads,' Moran said. 'At this point they probably would admit they overpaid for it and now they're just cleaning it up.'
He said that if AOL did sell Bebo, it would likely fetch a fraction of its original purchase price.

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