Bebo rolls out bChat – Chatroulette sans-private parts

Following on from the recent addition of IM powered by Meebo’s web-based client, Bebo has rolled out a video chat feature called bChat. Think Chatroulette “sans-private parts” was the line given to me (phew!). It’s provided by Vchatter, the social video chat service that is already available on Facebook and as a standalone offering, and is part of a wider strategy by Bebo to become relevant again by making its platform more realtime and interactive. And about time too.

A quick re-cap: After Bebo sold to AOL for $850 million in 2008, the platform was left to languish, with AOL eventually shutting it down for tax purposes and selling it for about $10m to Criterion Capital Partners. However, as we recently reported, the new team of 20 or so employees (and growing) has already made the site profitable and it’s now coming back in user numbers. Today’s news is another sign that the social network has a new spring in its step.

While bChat has some of the fun randomness of Chatroulette-style video chat, as you’d expect it has built in safety measures and taps into Bebo’s existing profile data to ensure that connections are better targeted. This is based on social preferences, geography, age and interests. VChatter was chosen to power the feature because of its focus on “safe social video chat”, including mechanisms to monitor user activity. We’ll see how well that works out.

In terms of support for video chat, this is just the beginning for Bebo. It says that it plans to extend the service to enable one to one and private video conferencing in 2011, and will soon announce “a new search, discovery and sharing interface for volumes of new video sources” in the coming weeks.

Who woke the dinosaur?