Report: Yahoo Courts Bebo to Boost Social Networking

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Yahoo Inc. is interested in purchasing Bebo Inc. to strengthen its disappointing social networking standing, the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph has reported.

Yahoo executives have publicly acknowledged that the company's Yahoo 360 social networking site has failed to achieve expected levels of popularity. Last year, it was rumored that Yahoo tried unsuccessfully to buy social networking site Facebook for US$1 billion, the same figure Yahoo is reportedly willing to pay for Bebo, the U.K. newspaper reported Sunday.

In April at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Jeff Weiner, executive vice president of Yahoo's network division, said Yahoo needs to attain a stronger position in social networking.

At the time, Weiner indicated that Yahoo could make up for Yahoo 360's weakenesses by leveraging its individual social Web sites, like the Flickr photo-sharing site, the social-bookmarking site, the Yahoo Answers question-and-answer search engine and the Yahoo Groups discussion forum service.

"We have to pull it together," he said.

In November of last year, Yahoo Vice President of Advanced Development Bradley Horowitz said the company might remake Yahoo 360, which was introduced in March 2005, because it hasn't fared well against competitors like MySpace, Facebook and Friendster.

In the U.S., News Corp.'s MySpace attracted almost 80 percent of all visits to social networking sites in April, followed in a very distant second place by Facebook with 11.5 percent, according to Hitwise Pty. Ltd. Bebo came in third place with 1.3 percent of visits. Yahoo 360 took seventh place with 0.71 percent.

Bebo has a particularly strong following in the U.K., where in mid-April it ranked as the eighth most popular Web site with 1.27 percent of all visits, one spot below MySpace, which ranked seventh with 1.34 percent, according to Hitwise.

Neither Yahoo nor Bebo immediately responded to requests for comment.

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