Ello: Will the ‘anti-facebook’ social network really lure away the masses?

There’s a new social network on the block and judging from the online chatter it’s generated over the past few days, it may just have the power to do what every other app and platform has been hoping to do for a decade: knock Facebook off the top spot.

Meet Ello. I’m not sure if it’s vaguely a Yorkshire or maybe cockney shortening of ‘hello’ or just a really random name guaranteed to get us talking, but it’s already generated a bit of sticking power this week among those who are sick and tired of Facebook and the way it commoditises its users.

Ello’s hard-hitting manifesto sounds like something from a sci-fi thriller about robots and conspiracy theories or something of that ilk:

‘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.’

Many of us are all too aware of the power Facebook yields over us on a daily basis. We know our conversations are probably being tracked and our personal data sold to the highest bidder, but something about the above empowering faux-typed, courier words dancing across my screen against the black background brings out the inner-revolutionary in me and I can’t wait to find out more.

According to Gigaom, the tech press wrote about Ello way back in March, dubbing itself the ‘anti-facebook’ social network. At the time the shinyshiny team completely overlooked the news. And can you blame us? So many apps and platforms and quirky new online services have been trying to prise us away from Facebook for years and using the ‘anti’ slogan just seems a little, well, old hat.

The way it works is pretty much identical to Facebook, there are profiles, you can share stuff. Granted there isn’t a newsfeed as such, but there’s a section dedicated to recent content shared by others, which is pretty much the same thing.

The design of Ello is in stark contrast to Facebook, a kind of monochrome rebellion against Zuckerberg and his boring blue. There’s also a particularly sparse feel and as you’d expect it promises to keep ads out of the app. Completely. But then again it’d have to given its manifesto’s bold claims.

Today I’ve noticed a few different people express an interest in Ello in many Facebook and Twitter news feeds, but mainly those are people living and working in the London media bubble.

According to reports today, it’s the LGBTQ community that are particularly excited about an exodus away from Facebook. Over the past few weeks, the social network has caused a great deal of controversy by telling select users that they must use their real names, a pretty misguided move that has left some members of the LGBTQ community feeling ostracised.

I’m not suggesting it’ll be a network solely populated by LGBTQ users and those working in the London media bubble, but its appeal for early adopters and those after more freedom could certainly help to quickly populate the site and ensure it reaches that critical mass necessary to convince people it’s got legs.

Of course it’s very early days for Ello, no matter how p*ssed off we feel with Facebook and all its rules, ads and pointless changes. Gigaom writes that Ello hasn’t secured any funding yet, so it’s very easy to focus on the people and not mention the cash. It also allegedly crashed under the pressure of so many invites briefly yesterday, which isn’t particularly promising.

What do you think of Ello? I requested an invite yesterday, but haven’t received it yet so will be sure to update this post once I have one with my initial thoughts.

Image via Ello.

Becca Caddy

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