A private social network that was initially built for personal consumption by a small group of people, goes public because of surging demand. Sounds familiar? With no intentions of competing with Facebook, Ello was just another private social networking site that was launched in March amidst no fanfare. However, in this past month, the site has drawn a lot of users, and is now going public, with its beta site already up and running for invited members. Also Read - Twitter threaded tweets feature discontinued after negative user feedback
Ello made headlines last week, when the LGBTQ community, flocked away from Facebook and joined Ello, following the controversial enforcement of Facebook’s real-names policy against drag queens in San Francisco. Over the weekend, Ello went viral with people begging for invites on Twitter. For now, the social networking site claims that it has 31,000 users joining the site every hour. We managed to squeeze pass through the massive line of people, the company claims is waiting, to get a sneak peak of what the site looks like. Also Read - Beware! Fraudsters using duplicate accounts for Facebook scam
First up, the interface is simple and easy to understand, navigation is a no-brainer. However, the site has a basic white background with black font colour making it really dull and boring to look at. It lets you put statuses and pictures for everyone to see and comment. There is no like feature, however, you get to know the number of people that have viewed the post. It also lets you post links, but they do not come alive as they do on Facebook. Additionally, just like Twitter, Ello lets you follow and unfollow people and gives you an identity with a handle that begins with @. Also Read - Instagram 'Live Rooms' now allows 3 more users in India
Therefore in terms of originality and design, Ello lacks lustre. However, the founders do not stress on the features anyway. Their main focus is on the site being ad-free. The company claims that they do not want to monetize by compromising on personal information and running ads. On its product page, the company takes an indirect jab at Facebook and states that “collecting and selling your personal data, reading your posts to your friends, and mapping your social connections for profit is both creepy and unethical. Under the guise of offering a ‘free’ service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy”.
However the biggest shortcoming of Ello is just that-privacy. While the social network promises to protect you from advertisers and data brokers, it has no controls to protect you from other users. All profiles are public, so anyone can find you and view your profile. There is no blocking capability either. Ello, however, mentions that the privacy feature along with a slew of other features will be rolled out soon. They also have an Android and iOS app in the works that should be out by the end of the year.
It is still unclear on how the creators plan to make money out of this product, if it gains momentum in the future. The company says that it will accept voluntary contributions, and they are also planning to roll out optional premium features for users to purchase.
Even though the entire ‘no ads’ and ‘no data brokering’ selling point seems refreshing, a lot of anti-Facebook social networks have seen the light of the day and disappeared eventually. For example, Diaspora – a social networking site- raised a lot of money to create a privacy-centric social network but failed to sustain users. The biggest challenge for Ello, apart from its dull and boring outlook, would be to sustain its userbase, and keep them hooked on and active. As for Facebook, the social network giant has 1.317 billion monthly active users. Even though Ello is far-off from overriding Facebook’s mega-popularity, the tag line – you are not a product – is something Facebook should introspect on.