Ello: New Facebook Killer or a 15 Minute Fame Flame?

It’s time to say “ello” to the new social network in town. Dubbed the “anti-Facebook,” the Internet is abuzz with news of the new social network creation Ello, created by entrepreneur and toy designer Paul Budnitz.

With millions of users and what Budnitz calculates to be “about 50,000 sign ups a day,” Ello is worth taking note of.

Is Ello unique and compelling enough to beat out long-time social champions like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr? Tough to say.

And It Was All Ello

Ello prides itself on a simple and clean social experience. While sites like Facebook and Twitter have long dominated the social side of the web, new contender Ello is gaining popularity as the quirky and cool ad-free alternative.

Ello started gaining traction earlier this month when Facebook instituted a new requirement that users must publish their real names, not pseudonyms. This resulted in tremendous backlash from LGBT community and drag queens, who had accounts suspended for using their stage names. These offended groups have been moving to Ello in droves.

Who Is Ello Built For?

Ello is catering to a specific audience – namely, users who are fed up with the rampant amount of advertising and shady privacy policies that plague other social networks. Users who have abandoned (or have considered leaving) Facebook will likely be Ello’s target group.

It’s no surprise that Ello relies on minimal design and simplicity – it’s just what the anti-Facebook contingent, sick of the noise, constant notifications, and drivel, would hope to find.

Ello promises to be different, and their rebellious tone is apparent throughout the social network site. The closest thing they have to an introduction page is titled “WTF,” (which doesn’t exactly scream corporate-friendly) coupled with their manifesto proclaiming their disdain for ads.You heard right – Ello is purposely devoid of the ad presence that riddles so many other networks. This doesn’t seem so special in and of itself – Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter were once ad-free in the beginning as well – but Ello’s lack of advertising is embedded in their manifesto.

Ello’s appearance and informal interface mirrors their manifesto, which highlights the deception and commoditization of users data that is commonplace on other social networks.

Ello spotlights the wrongdoings and pitfalls of other social sites while promising to do the opposite – to, as they put it, use social media “not [as] a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate – but [as] a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.”

Exploring Ello: What’s There to See?

Ello’s minimal design and barebones aesthetics result in the spotlight being aimed at user-generated content. And trust me, there is there some crazy stuff out there!

At times, Ello feels like a cross between Pinterest, Reddit, and a fine arts museum. The site is populated by the beautiful, the bizarre, the silly, and a truckload of gifs.

It’s clear that Ello caters to the artistic and design-oriented communities, with an emphasis on visual content featuring large image posts. It’s the artistically inclined who are more likely to have qualms with the Facebooks of the world, and they’ll find refuge on Ello.

Ello’s anarchist undertones are also apparent in their lack of handholding. You often end up stumbling upon features, rather than being introduced to them formally. Even deciphering how to post an update or upload an image requires some Sherlock Holmes-esque deduction.

This lack of obvious usability could easily be marked as a major failing on Ello’s part, but doesn’t have to be. Very little guidance is provided, but it’s not missed. Heck, it’s even a bit refreshing. Exploring Ello and learning how to use it is half the fun.

The Future of Ello: Will We Soon Be Waving Goodbye?

Will Ello’s siren song be enough to entice users? Or will Ello fall by the wayside, steamrolled by Facebook’s ad power and Google’s data hoarding powerhouse? That’s largely up to users. Ello presents itself as the alternative to the greedy social network kings, who gorge themselves on ad revenue and user data. People are doubtlessly growing tired of it all – the big question is, just how disillusioned are users?

While many despise the social network titans, there’s a reason they have billions of users. They’re convenient, they’re established, and all your friends are already there. Google+ had (I’m sorry, has. They are still trudging along on the struggle bus) plenty to offer, but never scrapped up enough of an active user base to be deemed a success.

Unless Ello can attract mainstream audiences (in addition to hipster ruffians), they’ll have a tough time succeeding.

Ello’s premise as the anonymous ad-free network is interesting, but it will need real features and goodies to attract a substantial audience. Make no mistake – the numbers matter. Even the coolest club in the world is a failure if no one is lining up at the door.

While Ello is short on features at the moment, they’re slowly adding them as they continue through beta.

If Ello wants to play ball, it’ll have to rely on more than just its lofty values. Whether or not they can take on that challenge has yet to be seen. In the meantime, hit me up on ello!


Image Credit: All screenshots taken October 2014