24 Sep Could ‘Ello’ succeed in being the advertisement free, data-mining free, alternative to Facebook?
Ello is a new social networking site with a powerful mission statement:
Your social network is owned by advertisers.
Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.
We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.
We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.
You are not a product. (Manifesto as it appears on the Ello website)
Ello is currently in the Beta phase of development, yet it already has a waiting list for membership, as of now, the only way to access the site is through invitation by a current member. The large demand for access to Ello is understandable. Somewhere over the past few years, developers lost interest in trying to compete with this traditional style of web creation, abandoning timelines and profiles for video sharing or group conversation apps, and that abandonment of the old interface has been the leading opportunity for Facebook to become such a powerful commodity.
It’s easy to assume that people love Facebook, but the reality is, people just love socialising. Before Facebook, we had Myspace, before Myspace, we had Bebo and yet, innovation in this vein of framework stopped with Facebook, not because Facebook was the most perfect that particular structure could be, but because we became more focused on creating entirely new types of social networking.
When I first began social networking online, sites were light hearted, playful and fun, we hung on to the accounts which provided information and education whilst simultaneously promoting the growths of very real friendship and everything else fell away. Over the past five years, there has been a significant and sinister turn in the direction of social networking, there have been countless privacy issues and security issues from the likes of Facebook itself alongside the social judgement of what potential employers might think of you based off of your profile content which sparked debates about whether or not you should censor yourself online. It’s no surprise that the generations following mine are bored of Facebook and jumping off this moving train with haste over to other platforms such as instagram and snapchat (both owned by Facebook all the same).
There’s this sort of apathy that sits with those of us who still operate Facebook accounts, we agree almost solidly that we hate the idea of data-mining and being considered nothing more than guinea pigs for psychological profiling. Facebook has taken social media networking and made it feel stuffy and corporate, it no longer feels like a ‘community’ worth being a part of, it feels strategic and claustrophobic as the struggle to remove yourself from the constant bombardment of marketing and advertisement on the site grows and grows, showing no sign of stopping.
I was invited today to come join the Ello site in beta form to set up a profile and check it out. My first impressions were really positive. I love the clean and simple interface, I love how vague the information sections are, signing up didn’t feel like you were filling out a bank loan application, the same can’t be said of Facebook. I took a tour of the community and realised instantly that there was really nothing for me to figure out with regards to manoeuvring around the site, it felt extremely intuitive and user friendly. The community which is steadily growing is predominantly artistic and creative and the vibe off the interactions was very welcoming and genuine. About a half hour after I logged in to the site, the moderators themselves posted the following message to the activity line:
To all of our new Friends, we’re happy you’ve joined the Ello party :
To optimize your Ello experience, I’d like to provide some tips/advice. Learning a new platform can be confusing and daunting, especially when it’s in beta phase and everything isn’t working perfectly. We know that there are lots of bugs, and we’re working as quickly as we can to fix them
We’ve have a ton of great feedback already, and I can tell you that my favorite features that are coming soon include:
- Media embeds (Soundcloud, Youtube, Vimeo, etc)
- Blocking another user, for safety and harassment concerns
- Private accounts, where you need to approve followers before they can see your content. Privacy and safety is very important to us.
There have been many questions about our business model, and a lot of people quickly assume that we’re going to turn evil. The basic freemium concept is that we’re going to roll out lots of small features that will allow you to enhance your Ello account. As a simple example, imagine paying $1 to be able to upload an animated .gif for your avatar. You can read a bit more about how we plan to sustain Ello without ads over here.
When it comes down to it, we hope that you stick around to see where this all goes. Please remember this is a beta platform, and that we didn’t quite expect the level of interest that has crashed down on us in the past few days (our small team is playing a bit of catch-up right now). We’re trying to build a positive, artistic community, without the evil, complicated bullshit that we’ve come to expect from big social networks that come from Silicon Valley. We want to hear from you and we truly appreciate your support as we turn Ello into something great.
Lovingly and thankfully from Denver, Boulder and Vermont,
I don’t know if it’s sheer nostalgia which has inspired such optimism in me for this site and such hope for it’s success or whether or not I just recognise the clear potential Ello has, but I found myself commenting on the above post suggesting they add a ‘donate’ button similar to the one used by ‘adblock’ on their site.
The truth is, getting users to cross over to a social networking platform with principles as strong as Ello’s, was never going to be the issue they faced, managing that kind of traffic is the big obstacle here. Say what you will about Facebook but they do provide a free service and advertisement was always going to be the perfect solution to the continuation of providing that free service on such a massive, global scale. Companies were happy for the exposure (however intrusive) and the income which paid advertising generated, went on to allow Facebook to effectively manage and expand their service. There is absolutely no way to deny the fact that Facebook has played an integral role for the sharing of information across the world, it has been and continues to be, a tool which friends and family use to remain connected, and it is a real time and uncensored account of global activities. Thanks to Facebook, and social media networks as a whole, we rely less and less on an unreliable media.
Of course, the beauty of this digital age is progression, there is always room for new and innovative ideas. Perhaps, although Ello feels to me, personally, like a throwback salute to social networking before it took itself too seriously, it is actually something entirely new. Perhaps Ello has witnessed the pros and cons of social media and improved upon the framework based on this knowledge. Time will tell. I certainly don’t need any persuasion to hang on to my newest social media account, I’m already a fan. Of course Ello has a long way to go, how do you provide a safe space for users without some sort of screening or enough information to hold users accountable? Whether Ello finds a new way to sustain its operation and growth without bending to advertisement or the sales of user data or not, it’ll be an interesting development to observe.