Have you heard about Ello? It’s all the rage right now.
Ello started as a private social network consisting of seven artists and programmers. After a year, the creators redesigned the website and launched Ello to the public. It was created as an ad-free alternative to existing social networks. Its original manifesto (now gone), declared that we are not products, unlike on that other social network that is “owned by advertisers” and collects and sells our data. Ello is the anti-Facebook.
The site’s creator, Paul Budnitz, initially comes across as the male version of the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl.’ “I create beautiful things that change the world,” he says in his Ello profile. He lives in Burlington, Vermont selling the “most beautiful city bicycles in the world.” He founded Kidrobot, which makes designer toys such as a silver Homer Simpson buddha statue. According to his personal biography, he writes books, makes films, and collects “cultural wearable artifacts,” such as a classic pair of Air Jordans that he sold for $16,000. His eyes shoot lasers. -Kashmir Hill, Ello vs. Facebook
Ello says it’s about audacity, beauty, simplicity, and transparency. It promises to stay ad-free. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a marketing platform. Advertising includes content marketing and personal branding. Ello isn’t keeping brands out. Creator Paul Budnitz has a profile for his company Budnitz Bicycles. You’ll also find Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Sonos, and BoingBoing.
We do not control what people post on Ello. We just don’t make money on advertising ourselves. If you don’t like what someone is posting, the good news is you don’t have to follow them.
Ello is different from Facebook. It looks different; it doesn’t have a Like button; you follow people (one-way) rather than connect with them; contacts can only be categorised as Friends or Noise; there are no apps or games or integration with other channels (at least, not yet); it doesn’t require a real name; and it allows adult content. We might not think to compare it to Facebook if its creators didn’t work so hard to tell us that it isn’t like Facebook. When we think about other successful social channels such as Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, we don’t automatically compare them to Facebook.
You can join Ello by being invited by a user (who has a limited number of invitations) or putting your name on the waiting list. If the stories are true, it has hundreds of thousands of users, but it isn’t going to kill Facebook yet. It’s still in beta, has bugs, and is missing important features such as the ability to block a user, to flag inappropriate content, private messaging, and video integration. In other words, features that Facebook has.
More importantly, Facebook is where family and friends are. For how long? That’s a good question and that’s the one that Facebook should be thinking about. People could be running to Ello for a number of reasons: because they’re early adopters, because they want to grab their username while they can, because of FOMO. It could also suggest a yearning for an alternative to Facebook. People will try new things, but Ello has to provide value if it’s going to survive. And it doesn’t need to beat Facebook to survive.
We’re not interested in ruling the world. We think people that are motivated to do things like that have unresolved psychological problems.
Maybe Ello really does just want to be a simple community for artists, but it needs a financial model to be sustainable. As more people join, it will become increasingly expensive to maintain it. If it’s free, ad-free, and you’re not the product, how will Ello survive?