Have you heard about Ello yet?
Ello is only 8 weeks old, but it’s already turning heads among social media experts and users.
Here’s their simple manifesto:
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.
Ello takes on Facebook
Currently in Beta — by invitation only, Ello thumbs it’s nose at Facebook, with it’s poor privacy controls, algorithm that limits what posts actually make it on your news feed, and increasing advertising disrupting the social experience. In an interview at Forbes, founder, Paul Budnitz, disparaged Facebook.
We see Facebook as an advertising platform not a social network. Users are products at Facebook. They want to know as much as possible to advertise to you.”
Ello is so committed to this manifesto that you need to agree with them before joining the social network. Disagree and you’re sent directly to Facebook.
And, the strategy appears to be working. Facebook seriously piss-off (a very technical term meaning you really F*&^ed up) users by demanding they switch to Messenger, then shutting down accounts for several drag queens claiming violations of their TOS (terms of service), which require users profile under their real names. The LGTB community rallied behind them and swamped Ello emails with requests to join. Between Facebook mistakes and increasing anger over the amount of advertising supported by sharing personal information about users, users are leaving. By yesterday, Forbes reports they’re getting about 50,000 new users an HOUR from new prospective members, invitations sent by existing members, and new accounts — so the number is pretty inflated. The Verge reports Ello currently has a waiting list of over 1 million people.
Trouble at Facebook
While Business Insider touts increased profitability and user base as strengths for Facebook, it cites evidence that the shine is off the apple. Based on a study by Enders Analysis (see below), which shows sharp declines in new users, they’re right.
Earlier this year, Mashable acknowledged the serious decline in existing users, especially the all-important teens, but argued the decline has leveled off. Time disagrees and, reports on a disease model developed by a couple of researchers at Princeton, showing Facebook is primed to lose 80% of their user base by 2017.
How Ello is different?
Ello’s manifesto promises a social network forever free from advertising, where an algorithm doesn’t keep you from seeing all the cat videos uploaded by your connections, and where users experience social networking as it was meant to be.
So, how will Ello make money, you ask?
Simple, they’ll get it from users.
Not in the form of fees for service — they promise the social network will be free forever. Instead, they’ll entice users to buy enhancements and improved functionality for a few dollars. Things like emojis, private accounts, and a host of other features under development represent their business model.
While users flock to Ello right now, not everyone believes the trend is sustainable.
Trouble at Ello?
The Verge doesn’t believe Ello’s grow is sustainable and predicts interest will flag, leaving Facebook the preeminent social network. Among other problems, The Verge finds the Ello UI (user interface) is just plain weird. Since I’m waiting behind many of the 1 million hoping for invitations, I can only say the website is wonky. Ello’s website is very simplistic — reminiscent of websites created when you’re only option was to hard code in rudimentary HTML by a 12 year old learning to code. OK, so maybe they spent their time and resources coding the application, rather than making a pretty website. I can forgive that.
But, the UI isn’t much better. Here’s the image from The Verge:
Plus, beware of checking your stream with kids in the room — Ello allows pornography!
No algorithm on Ello
My most serious concern with Ello — when and if the social network reaches millions of users — is the lack of an algorithm determining what a user sees. Sure, it sounds good in principle and I get as pissed off as the next person when I miss something interesting because Facebook decided I wasn’t interested in that, but the alternative breaks down quickly when you have a large network.
That’s why I don’t use Twitter the same way I use Facebook. I have nearly 5,000 folks I follow — many of them social media wonks. That means they use Twitter — a lot. If you look at my Twitter Feed, you’ll see posts speeding past so fast, there’s no hope of seeing most of it. In fact, Twitter is rolling out an algorithm specifically to solve this problem and encourage increased use of the platform.
But, by all means, give it a try and let me know what you think.
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