With 30,000 requests to join every hour*, and a manifesto that promises not to carry adverts or sell user data, Ello is being hailed as the ‘anti-Facebook’. But is it time to add yet another platform to your social marketing mix?
Launching earlier this year, Ello has been described as part-Twitter, part-Tumblr. Presently still in Beta mode, users can post status updates, photos and GIFs, comment on friends’ posts and search for other users. You’ve got the option to follow people as either ‘friends’ or ‘noise’, which is helpful for separating personal friends from professional acquaintances.
At present, users have to be invited to join by an existing member – although you can request an invitation online. Interest in the site has been so fevered that users are even selling invites on eBay.
Why all the hype?
The site’s launch came with a controversial manifesto, whose opening statement – “Your social network is owned by advertisers” – many interpreted as being a direct attack on Facebook. Promising to deliver an ad-free experience that wouldn’t sell user data to third parties, Ello also bills itself as being created by “a small group of artists and designers”. The site’s stark appearance and retro typeface has caused some critics to dub it the ‘hipster Facebook’.
While many people might be enthusiastic at the prospect of an independent site focused more on user experience and less on commercials, critics argue that this model isn’t sustainable. Tech blogger Andy Baio noted that the site received $435,000 in seed funding from a venture capital firm called FreshTracks Capital in January of this year. How independent and ad-free can the site remain in the future when it has to provide a return for its investors?
Who’s using it?
It’s still too early to gather much data on this but reports suggest that many early adopters are creatives, tech enthusiasts and bloggers. There’s also been a buzz in the LGBT community, many of whom were unhappy with Facebook’s recent decision to force users to include their real names on their profile – a move which, they argued, discriminated against drag queens, who commonly use aliases. Ello has also pledged to offer more user freedom, allowing filtered adult content, which could also encourage an influx of users.
Is it worth signing up?
With much of Ello’s functionality yet to be developed it’s too early to tell how popular it will be. Equally, very little is known about who is actually using it and how. The ultimate barometer of a social media platform’s success is, of course, user numbers. So far, so good for Ello but serious questions remain about their business model and time will tell whether it’s ultimately just a case of say Ello, wave goodbye.