Social Shootout: Facebook vs. Bebo
29 July, 2007 25 Comments
Facebook vs. Bebo… fight!
Yup, it’s true. I’ve joined the masses and signed up for some social networking goodness. Not content with just one network, I’ve joined two (coz my mates are on both), hence this post from a newbie taking a quick look at Facebook and Bebo.
The contenders spout off
Facebook – “Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.”
Bebo – “Bebo is the next generation social networking site where members can stay in touch with their College friends, connect with friends, share photos, discover new interests and just hang out.”
Bebo go on to say “Bebo (www.bebo.com) is the largest social networking site in the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand, and the third largest behind MySpace and Facebook in the United States.” which I found interesting since I have no idea how big these sites are. Facebook doesn’t make any similar claims, but the New Zealand Facebook Network pushed over 40,000 members just today.
Click through for the rest of my comments and comparisons including screenshots…
Nuts and Bolts
If the above doesn’t help explain it, both sites basically give you a profile page where you list stuff about yourself including likes and dislikes etc. You can then add photos, post comments and in some cases import content from other places that you want to share. Then comes the social aspect. The key to these sites is to add or link to your friends, thus building a network of people interconnected via their profiles who can comment to each other and keep in touch with what their friends are up to.
Facebook is a closed site in that to view somebody’s profile you have to be a member yourself. Even then that person can choose to only permit their listed friends to have access to their profile. With Bebo, you have the option of making your profile completely public or just for members/friends on the network as with Facebook.
Facebook goes for a fixed blue/grey/white colour scheme with a simple layout including square and rectangular box elements. Bebo gives you a similarly simple default layout, but in red and white with a few rounded corners. Straight up Facebook looks more professional, but doesn’t let you customise it’s appearance. Enter Bebo with its limited CSS and skins! If you don’t like the default look of Bebo you can use a new skin from their extensive repository or create your own. While providing an element of freedom, this does lead to some horrible looking profiles on Bebo!
Facebook goes for a 3-column layout, with the users content split between a narrow and a wide column, with the third column being for a search box and links, and a flash ad. Bebo goes for a split page with a 3-column user info box, followed by an equal two-column layout below for the users content. Here’s a peek,
Facebook is on the left with its default colour scheme. Bebo on the right has been re-skinned with a relatively simple look created by me! (Note – Bebo does NOT display ads on your profile page. I use Ad-Block in Firefox hence there’s no annoying flash ad in the Facebook screenshot above)
Both let you move content boxes around to an extent, but on Facebook sometimes only vertically in the main content column. The layout is easier to alter on Facebook where you can drag and collapse content directly on your profile page. On Bebo you have to head for the “change modules” page to swap content between the columns.
Pimp my Profile
Here Facebook and Bebo are quite different in their provision of extra content and 3rd party tools. Facebook has opened up their API and as a result has a huge number of “applications” that can be added to your profile to incorporate features and/or remote content. For example, I’ve added the WordPress and Digg apps which pull in my blog posts and dugg stories respectively. Bebo’s strength is in music and videos with loads available on site and being easy to include into your profile. Where Bebo lacks applications, it does have “widgets”, but from what I’ve seen, they are simply woeful. This however should change sometime in the future with Bebo announcing they are launching a developer platform (see this story at Mashable) which will allow Facebook style apps to be built. Bring it on! In the very least I expect an RSS importer so I can syndicate my favourite feed(s) – sadly, even this most basic feature is currently missing in Bebo.
What are my friends doing?
Both sites provide the user with a “home” page where changes or comments made by friends are listed. This is crucial for a useful experience since without this functionality you’d have to visit every one of yours friends pages to see what they’re up to. Again, here’s a peek,
Facebook provides a “news feed” of ‘who and what’ headlines along with info and links and has some nifty slider controls to adjust the frequency of the various notifications. Similarly, Bebo provides a content summary along with your friends avatar and appeared at first to be more visual, including uploaded photos and videos in the list. Both sites provide filtering to list only a single type of notification and if you want to get in touch away from your public profile both sites have a private message/mail system.
Pros and Cons
As you’d expect, both networks have good and bad features. I like the look of Facebook, but then I could skin Bebo to look the same, and I do like the skinnable nature of Bebo. The big plus that Facebook has is the 3rd party applications, but watch for these to come to Bebo in the future. Bebo appears to have a richer friend notification list, and as a result feels more interactive, but it is early days and some of my impressions may be due to a lack of tweaking the right settings. I reckon both are equal in terms of commenting on your friends profiles, although Facebook seems to tie replies in better via their “wall-to-wall” feature.
And the winner is…
Whichever network has the most of your friends! Seriously, that will be the deciding factor.
If I had to pin it down though, I think Facebook has the edge, but only because of the lack of 3rd party apps on Bebo.