Ello – A New Social Network
Last week Ello suddenly burst into the collective consciousness of many tech-savvy social media users as the next hot network. While it has been around since last March, it didn’t go viral until last week, when Mashable reported that Ello was “receiving anywhere from 4,000 to more than 30,000 requests an hour.” Suddenly, traditional social networks are full of people looking for invitations to the service, which is still in invitation-only private beta, and publications as diverse as The New Yorker, Gawker, and The Atlantic are reporting on it. Much of this interest comes from the perception that Ello offers a stark alternative to Facebook. Ello initially launched by posting their “manifesto,” which starts with the phrase “Your social network is owned by advertisers” and ends with the phrase “You are not a product.” As privacy concerns and advertising presence has increased on Facebook, many users are suddenly searching for an alternative. However, the jury is still out on whether Ello will really be able to fulfill this role. Even if it is able to build a sufficient user base to compete with Facebook, some have raised concerns about Ello’s lack of privacy features and the fact that they accepted venture capital funding, which leads some to believe that the network won’t stay ad free and committed to its principles for long. The company has responded to these concerns by listing several privacy features in their Coming Soon section and stating that they plan to make money by selling premium features (including privacy features) in the future.
Intrigued by both its sudden popularity and all the commentary swirling around it, I decided to try Ello out myself. Many are describing it as some combination of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, and some elements do feel that way. The layout and look and feel are much more pared down than the average social media site, which has impressed many design fans. The minimalist design consists mostly of black and white with the only colors coming from users’ avatars, items that are posted on the site, and the banners that are hidden at the top of each users’ profile if you scroll up. When you follow people on Ello, you can sort them into Friends or Noise and they will never know which category you assign them, which offers a way to focus more attention on some users and less on others.