Why Is Everyone Talking About Ello?

In the past week, the internet has lit up with talk of Ello, a new social media network that some have billed the “anti-Facebook.”

It’s earned its moniker because it vows to be totally ad free, and never to sell user data to third parties. Instead, the social platform plans to roll out special features that users can choose to pay for. For skeptics who point out that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram also started out ad-free, Ello has an earnest and ready answer:

Ello’s entire structure is based around a no-ad and no data-mining policy. Quite frankly, were we to break this commitment, we would lose most of the Ello community. Including ourselves, because we dislike ads more than almost anyone else out there. Which is why we built Ello in the first place.

Ello then points out the easily accessible “Delete Account” button in every user’s settings–just in case they renege on their promise.

Ello began as a private network built by seven artists and programmers. As more and more people sought to use it, the original builders created a public version. Now, users must be invited or be placed on a waiting list to avoid overwhelming the system. (Even in my initial explorations, the site occasionally failed to load.)

With minimal features and a sparse layout, Ello maintains the feeling of a frontier in look and feel. Your friends’ avatars are displayed on the left, and posts are updated in a feed on the right. Unlike Facebook, Ello supports GIFs and tells you how many people saw your post. You can also toggle into your “Noise” feed. “Noise” includes users you follow but aren’t exactly friends with; that Ello allows you to distinguish between the two is helpful.

Without a doubt, Ello is hip–so hip that new users are unsure how to populate the blank space (“How do I Ello?” mused one user). Already, however, trends are emerging, such as the tendency for users to sign up with names like George W. Bush or In-N-Out, and using the appropriate profile pictures.

It may be too early to tell, but Ello seems to be headed toward an elegant hybrid of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Posts are short and fleeting, like Twitter; people befriend users they already know, like Facebook; and content has a depersonalized, aesthetic bent, like Tumblr. It’s unlikely that social commerce will ever creep its way onto Ello.

Whether the platform is here to stay or is just a passing fad remains to be seen. In the meantime, invites continue to be in high demand, even going for $50 a pop on Ebay.

Are you on Ello? How do you rate the experience?

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