Will Ello Be a Facebook Killer?

Category: Social-Networking

Say “hello” to Ello, the new social network that aims to relieve the pain of the greatest indignity that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, inflict upon their members: commoditization. Will it be the next big thing, or a blip on the radar? Read on to learn about Ello...

Hello, Ello!

According to the people that created it, Ello.co is "the social network you have been waiting for." Let's set aside the improper placement of the preposition in that pronouncement, and take a look at what Ello offers, and what it doesn't.

Ello says their site was created by seven artists, and is "Simple, beautiful & ad-free." I'll give them a 2 out of 3 score. It's simple, and ad-free. But to me, it looks like the minimalist monochrome design was created with a typewriter and a stencil. It's the extreme opposite of the glittery mess that once was Myspace.

About the no ads promise, the Ello Manifesto declares “You are not a product.” Visitors are asked to click a button to agree or disagree. Disagree, and you’re re-directed to Facebook where you can remain just another pair of eyeballs to be sold to advertisers, along with every scrap of demographic and surveillance data that Mark Zuckerberg can gather about you.
Ello: Facebook Killer?

Ello is committed to remaining ad-free for as long as it exists; there is no hedging, no weasel-words like “for the foreseeable future” or “at this time.” There won’t be any sponsored posts in your feed; no sidebars cluttered with “recommended” advertisers; no favoring of paid ads over the posts of your friends. And Ello won’t sell data about its members to marketers.

And that could be a problem. So how will Ello survive without marketers’ dollars? They’re planning something like the “freemium” model of shareware. A very basic social network will be available free of charge to everyone. If you want a specific feature, you will be able to buy it for a nominal one-time fee. If you’re a member of a band or some other small group, and you want to control multiple Ello accounts (to be the drummer or lead singer, for instance), Ello might charge you $2 for that feature. A package of emoticons (“emojis”) designed by your favorite artist might cost a few bucks.

Will You Pay to Play?

Early members of Ello have been flooding the company with ideas for features they say they’re willing to pay for. Bizarrely, one of the features in greatest demand is the ability to invert Ello’s default black-on-white text presentation; it seems a lot of people want to read white words on a black background, particularly in Asia.

FYI: Ello is not Ello.COM, that’s a nutritional products firm with a website that screams 1995. But Ello.CO is probably the best thing that's ever happened to them. If Ello the social media site makes it big, they'll be waving cash and begging the vitamin guys for that dot-com address.

Like J. R. R. Tolkien’s Mordor, one does not simply walk into Ello; one must be invited by a current member or by the Ello staff. Ello is receiving tens of thousands of requests for invitations per day, according to reports, and there aren’t many staffers to handle them at this time. So you may wish to browse the public profiles on Ello.co to see if you know anyone who can invite you in. (I've read that Ello invites are actually selling on eBay for as much as $500.)

Ello.co is staffed by a small and eclectic group. Paul Budnitz is the creator/founder who lives in New York City. He is best known for Kidrobot, maker of pricey vinyl toys that cross the line into art. He also builds Budnitz Bicycles out of stainless steel, titanium, and lightweight carbon fiber components. They start at $2595.00. Budnitz is aided by a two-person graphic design team, Berger & Fohr, based in Boulder, CO, and four members of a programmers’ collective called Mode Set.

I wish them well, but I just don't see how they're going to make it big by relying on members who have a lifetime value of two dollars. Some people will pony up for the extras, but the vast majority will be along for the free ride. And aside from the ad-free experience, I don't see any unique features that set them apart from Facebook.

"I Clicked an Ad... And I Feel Fine!"

And I have to say this... what's the big deal about ads? I get the privacy issues, and the disdain for having your shoe size sold to the highest bidder. But advertising is what makes quality television and radio possible, and is the reason you can get it for free. Likewise, ad-supported websites are the backbone of free, high-quality content on the Web.

Ads on web pages are MUCH less intrusive of your time than ads on radio or TV. They are minimal, when compared to the volume of ads that appear in print magazines. And online ads at least try to be relevant to the content you are consuming. If you're reading an online article about the latest Ford Mustang, you might find an ad for a tire store, or your local Ford dealer. On radio and TV, all I get is pitches for reverse mortgages and nutritional supplements -- products in which I have no interest.

I've veered off course a bit here, so let's get back on track. Competition is always a good thing, because it forces all the players to innovate. So I welcome Ello into the social media arena, and I encourage you to give it a test drive and tell me what you think.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Will Ello Be a Facebook Killer?"

(See all 21 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Roger K
02 Oct 2014

Will try at the first opportunity. FB and other sites have way too many abstractions. I like to do one thing at a time & do it well!

Posted by:

Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries
02 Oct 2014

My first question about Ello was: "How do they expect to pay for it?"

I requested an invite, because I request invites to (nearly) everything new, but I don't think their model is promising. Apparently I'm not alone, because why else would Ello's founders have taken $435k in venture capital?


I have no problem with ads, even on my Note 2, where I have no ad blocker (and the ad blocker on my PC allows unobtrusive advertising), so this seems to me to be the answer to a problem that exists only in the minds of the hyper-sensitive.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

I worked on the old bulletin boards for a number of years. All these social media websites are basically the same. The subject they discuss are boring. Also they are very dangerous because of ID Theft and numerous other reasons. People that don't even know you wants to be your friend. There are ads galore. I've seen what it looks like, but I wouldn't have anything to with that URL.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

I'm just glad that you caught them using a preposition to end a sentence with :-)

I haven't done any research, so this is just a whimsical comment. I predict Ello will be a big bump comprised primarily of elitists and younger people who want to prove to the previous generations (ie, anyone older than 20) that they are vastly superior simply because they don't use the 'old fashioned' social media.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

i checked out Ello. they've got some significant HTML issues and the visible layout isn't very logical, but hell anything's better than facebook

Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

Requested access, for now. It has to be better than Google+.

Posted by:

Elizabeth Landry
02 Oct 2014

ello? There is nothing beautiful about snobbery. Invitation? Really? Get serious people.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

This quote grabbed my attention because a few weeks ago, my computer did just that ... my monitor screen is black and the icons are a normal color. How did that happen and how can I change it back to my normal? I have asked that famous website but have not read a decent answer. BTW, Bob, you have a great website and I love reading it each time. I have learned so much from you. Keep up the good work!

Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

Regarding web ads, I'm sorry but I find it very distracting to have flashing and blinking ads on the sides of a text that I am trying to read, so that I still gladly use Flashblock unless a website that I want to visit won't allow it--and those are very few, so far.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

I remember when you couldn't get on Google+ without an invite- it's just a way to make people more interested. Yawn. I use Adblock Plus on Chrome and it seems to work on FB (and elsewhere), though, like you, the ads aren't that intrusive. There is room out there for all types of social networks, so I wish Ello well.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

Well, of course you don't see a problem with ads...your page is full of them ;-) Worth it to support your wonderful website.

I wish Ello luck, although they may need to raise the fees a bit. I'm not into the whole social media thing myself, for many of the reasons that Ello was created. I hope they stay "pure," but I won't hold my breath. And I won't be begging for an "invitation" anytime soon.

I actually don't mind ads on web pages, as long as they are to the side and I have the choice whether or not to click, which I actually do, sometimes, just to support the page. Privazer does a wonderful job of clearing out all the tracking bumf so I can remain relatively anonymous when I do visit an ad-sponsored page. The ones that absolutely infuriate me are the little double-underlined ones in the meat of the article; you end up with an annoying pop-up right where you're trying to read, just from a mouse-over. Hint, Hint.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

"But advertising is what makes quality television and radio possible"

Not here Bob, the BBC produces some great quality TV without one single advert.

On the other hand we have to pay a TV licence whether we watch anything on the BBC or not.

Only in the UK?

Doesn't adblocker (ABP) work on Facebook?


Posted by:

02 Oct 2014

Meh! Facebook, Ello, Twitter, LinkedIn... you can keep them all. No interest.
As for ads, I must say I get awfully tired of ads that pop up as I'm trying to read, one after the other. As soon as I find the way to close one, up pops the next. And then there are the video ads that start up as you're trying to read. And the sites that add so many advertisements to the page that the back arrow doesn't work. Almost enough to make me chuck it all. Almost...

Posted by:

03 Oct 2014

What I don't like about forced fed advertising is the very thing marketers are so proud of....the lack of diversity. If I look at a desk, for example, suddenly I've got a thousand desks shoved at me, under the assumption that I am of the 1% and can actually use a desk for every room of my multiple houses, I guess. The truth is: one house, only need one desk, and, once I buy it, I don't need another. No matter how many million desks you show me, once I bought one, I won't buy another for a very long time. The difference between television and the force fed model is that I may see randomly an advertisement on television that I will become interested in even though I was not looking for it (when this randomness is eliminated, I turn the sound off and walk away). And I have purchased from chance encounters. I just hate having ads trail me from site to site, and they are all boringly about the same thing which shows a deficit of imagination from the privacy sucking marketers who apparently don't know very much at all about marketing or about me despite their efforts to suck the marrow from my bones. Or maybe I'm just too different a customer to bother with.

Posted by:

03 Oct 2014

Bob, in checking out Ello ... I found it, to be more for the younger generation, 25+. Some excellent Graphic Designers are on Ello and some being more of a sexual aspect. Trust me, I am not opposed to sexual materials and what I saw, was very respectful ... I just don't care to view it, is all. Again, I don't oppose it, I simply don't care for it.

Now, having said all of that ... The interface of Ello is very, very basic, which I happen to like. I don't care to see other Ello pages, I want to only see my own family and friends comments and pages, should they even bother to join.

Do I think, Ello will be successful ... No ... Any more than Google+ is. Facebook is the most accepted social media, on the planet and that isn't going to change, anytime soon. Do I like Facebook ... NO!!! I still have my account, but, only check Facebook, once or twice a week. I found that it is sooooooooooooo easy, to become additive to Facebook, much like many computer users were with emails, a decade ago.

Posted by:

04 Oct 2014

I'm with Daniel (Oct. 2) on this one. There's nothing particularly attractive or appealing about the site - just looks like it's going to appeal to entirely different demographic than FB.

Posted by:

04 Oct 2014

Call me "hypersensitive" but I hate intrusive ads that disrupt my browsing experience, especially on mobile devices. I deactivated my FB account only because I was constantly irritated while trying to read through my timeline on my iPhone and not being able to tell real status updates from my friends vs. advertisements with their faces on them! I also detested the algorithm that FB employs to decide for me what posts I want to see...but I digress. I don't mind unobtrusive ads but that's almost never the case on a mobile device: they blink, they float in the middle of what you're reading, they dim the page and obscure what you're looking at until you find a way to dismiss them and some of them are so persistent that you CAN'T dismiss them. *sigh*

I might be just the type of person that Ello is targeting but their by-invitation model is going to seriously limit the number of people using their service and the fewer people using the service, the fewer people that can or will pay for "extras". The hardest thing about killing Facebook is getting enough people to participate (ask Google+) so exclusivity doesn't seem like the winning business model for a SOCIAL networking site...just my penny's worth.

Posted by:

04 Oct 2014

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG - as far as the "what's wrong with ads?" attitude, buddy!

"what's the big deal about ads?" - you said it yourself - the privacy issues, having your info sold, etc. The point is, *I* should be the one who decides who can know what I choose for them to know about me. NO ONE should be allowed to collect any kind of info about me/my habits, period.

"But advertising is what makes quality television and radio possible" - uh, "quality"? Guess you don't watch much TV or listen to much radio nowadays as it is 98% CRAP, not quality!

"and is the reason you can get it for free" - really, I get TV for free? Then why do I pay the cable TV company for TV service? Guess when the next bill comes I will send them a letter that says - "well, I put up with these ads that make it free so I'm not paying this month". We'll see how that flies...

Posted by:

05 Oct 2014

Wholeheartedly agree with Really?'s take though I think he/she's a little generous in estimating 98% of TV/radio is crap

Posted by:

07 Oct 2014

It's not just about adverts in your feed, it's about your personal preferences and online identity being sold to a huge range of companies. When you and another individual approach a bank you will get different offers based upon that profile and you'll never know that you're not being given the same possible choices. It's not hard to see a future where you're rejected from jobs without ever knowing that it's because your online profile doesn't fit what data analysis has predicted is the most likely to be successful in that role. The latest Wired has a good piece on this.

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