While this post about Ello, the new invite-only social network that’s been getting a good deal of buzz lately, is classified on this site under “digital marketing”, I feel it’s important to note– Ello is not about marketing. Not at all.
The idea behind Ello is simple: human interaction in a digital world. There is no “like” button; if you genuinely “like” something you see someone else post, you actually have to leave a comment. Like, you know, real-life or somethin’. The design of the site is simple & elegant, and the initial user profile pages are sleek & inline, casting the spotlight on content, and nothing else.
Created by Paul Budnitz (founder of Kidrobot), Ello is everything that Facebook used to be, back when you needed a college email address to join and your mother wasn’t making awkward comments on every single picture you post. Launched back in March, the network has had little press until recently, when Facebooks (ridiculous) “real names policy” drew the ire of the LGBTQ community for cracking-down on drag queens, particularly in San Francisco.
Ello’s manifesto (found here) describes a social networking utopia that many of us, not-so-keen on endless Buzzfeed “which famous TV cat are you” surveys and not in objection to the site of a beautiful woman with no clothes on (who chooses to share those pictures, btw) have been clamoring for.
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.
While it sounds hypocritical (it is) for someone like me, who has written countless articles about marketing within the confines of social networks (and has continued to earn a paycheck via the same practice), to be openly embracing a site like Ello, let me clarify: I’m definitely not advocating against sites like Facebook and Twitter (two networks I use literally every day), nor do I have an issue, per se, with their data collection or advertising practices. I do believe, however, that there is value in providing an alternative.
I also am particularly curious to see how Ello can maintain its core values as it grows. If, say, Ello is around 2 years from now, and has a million members or so, how will it sustain itself, financially? Currently, the site has some VC backing– but, if its not earning revenue, that won’t last. Without advertising, can the social network continue to exist??
It’s a good question– one that has been asked and, so far, gone unanswered. While I am, honestly, interested in Ello from a personal perspective, my curiosity is piqued with the idea that a website can be a successful business without either ads, paid memberships, or eCommerce. It’s an unproven concept, that I’m aware of, right now; but I would welcome a company to come and change this.
What do you think about Ello? Can the site truly remain ad-free and still become a major force in the social networking space?