Bebo Reaches to Developers –Enterprise Companies Follow Suit

Left Image: Blake Commagere of Ohai tells of the success he’s had porting his popular apps from FaceBook to Bebo at AOL’s Mountain View campus.

Last night, I was invited to AOL’s offices in Mountain View to learn of Bebo’s Dev Nite, a public courtship to startups and developers who make web applications on social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Hi5 (Examples: Vampires, Scrabulous, Superwall). For anyone that didn’t get the association (it slipped my mind for a sec) that Bebo was acquired by AOL, they keep the branding very loosely separated –likely on purpose.

Bebo, a unique Social Network
Bebo’s community segment focuses on user sharing and media, and is somewhat in between the experiences of the wild ‘self expression’ MySpace and more refined Facebook ‘communication’ experience. They claim to have over 40 million users, and has strong traction in UK, and other English speaking countries.

Bebo Reaches for Application Developers, and sets some parameters
While there were several things announced, Bebo’s has launched a 10 point based system that rates and ranks quality applications, defined by ‘engagement’. I asked, and they define engagement as repeat visitors and time on site. Developers are rewarded in this ‘game-like’ type of scenario so the top applications (scoring 10) will have the ability for some of their applications to appear on newsfeeds of users that do not install their apps. Translation: the opportunity for viral growth.
Bebo should also reward developers that attract new members to the Bebo sites. T

Porting applications from Facebook to Bebo and beyond
he first presentation from Blake Commagere of Ohai who created some of the more popular (but useless?) applications shared his case study of how he was easily able to port over Facebook apps to Bebo. It was discussed that OpenSocial, which is coming up on it’s 1st aniv still has a ways to go, as developers still have to cater to different protocols with each social network. Learn more at the Bebo blog –which transparently admits to having some issues with the platform.

Enterprise Companies reach for Startups
Why would Sun or Microsoft care about some scrappy vampire developer? With the rapid growth of social network adoption from consumers and businesses, some (most will not) of these garage startups will have needs to fill up their data center, (or cloud) with servers, storage, software and professional services.

As a result the Sun Startup Essentials team was there, (I’ve been tracking them for years, since I was at HDS) and offered developers free hosting with their partner Joyent (learn about the developer program), as well as access to Sun hardware, open source software, professional services, and connections with VCS. Sun should create an online community for startups, or build one inside of existing social networks to further extend their cause.

Microsoft, (who was not involved with this event) recently launched BizSpark, has far to go, and must truly join the community they want to serve. In my pre briefing meeting with them a few weeks ago, I recommended they reach and join this community, much like how Scoble did in 2005-2006. I expect them to work with existing social media stars, and to aggressively reach for this space.

The Bottom Line:

  • The culture of each social network is unique, don’t expect applications to easily be ported and successfully run on different social networks –customization is always required.
  • Expect to see more applications on Facebook to also appear on Bebo and other sites, due to the catering of developers, as well as technologies such as OpenSocial.
  • Brands should explore relationships with these application developers who have success on more than one social network, this makes marketing more effective. Brands should first leverage existing sucess rather than build their own –this space is highly fast moving and specialized.
  • Bebo’s measurement index (although extremely limited in attributes) will not only encourage good behavior by those rascally developers, but also helps brands identify who they will want to work with.
  • Expect to see more enterprise companies catering to startups, in order to plan architectural seeds. Although most startups won’t bloom, some will turn into lush tropical forests, bringing ROI full circle.