Will Ello Be a Facebook Killer?
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...
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 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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Oct 2014
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