Seriously? Another social media site? In a word, yes. It is Ello, and it is exploding in popularity. One report cited an astonishing growth of 30K new members an hour at peak times, up from only 90 members in August! From a modest, friends only beginning in March of this year, Ello is the talk of the Internet right now, all of this in spite of the fact that it is still an invitation only site. Many in the press and online have dubbed Ello the anti-Facebook, and that may be its biggest appeal.
The biggest differentiating factors between Facebook and this still-in-beta social media upstart appear to be Ello's insistence on remaining free of advertising, and its willingness to maintain user anonymity. Facebook has been in hot water recently because of a real name only policy for all users. Members of the LGBT community, who fear harassment, and drag queens in particular, who have personas apart from their given names, gravitated to the freedoms offered by Ello. For many, Ello is the alternative that they've been seeking.
For some, though, the anonymity is a problem. British actor, bon-vivant, and Twitter legend Stephen Fry had his name taken by someone. Although impersonation is strictly forbidden, there is, as of yet, no way of authenticating an account, which will be very important to many public figures. You also have to wonder how effective any business account will be on a social media site dedicated to individualism and non-commercial appeal. Such an account will only be so much noise.
How it works
Ello offers members two feeds: Friends and Noise, and only you will know which person you are following is on which feed. You can scroll on through the members and elect to follow anybody who interests you, and then place them in one category or the other. Friends allows you to track everything written and shared by those you have selected in that category. The Noise feed allows for quick browsing of pictures, gifs, and general information. Significantly, there is no word or character limit to any post, so lengthy blogs, stories, and rants can be found on this social media site.
The nine developers of Ello suggest that only the people you really care about should go on your Friends list, and everybody else falls into the Noise category. This will make sifting through all the material much easier. You can always shift someone from one category to another, if you wish. Everything currently is done by drag-and-drop method. It's very easy, when everything is working properly. But, as with anything still in the beta stage of development, Ello can be wonky.
It is also not, at present, intuitive. I recommend that everyone begin with a lengthy stay at https://ello.co/wtf. You can also follow the original developers, such as @budnitz, and @cacheflowe. You'll get updates on what's happening in the Ello world through them.
Concerns for the present, and the future
For all the clean simplicity and fun stuff like their love for emojis, there's also a strange feeling of detachment. If I post something and nobody Likes it, did anyone see it? It's expressive, and can be a great venue for strutting your stuff and showcasing art, design, and eventually music and video. But, beware. You currently can't block any content. If you have opted to follow someone, and they post something which you find inappropriate or offensive '- too bad!
There was an initial policy statement specifying no porn or you would be blocked. Now, however, it's been reworded to allow for NSFW content, as long as they aren't breaking any laws. These iconoclasts are all about freedom of expression. So if I want to block someone or flag inappropriate content, I can't. Privacy controls are coming, we are told, and they will probably be offered in several levels, but for now it's wide open.
Ello's business plan is to remain rebellious. The omnipresent Ello face, obscuring the profile pictures of many members, would seem to reflect an attitude similar to Anonymous. They are adamant about never selling advertising or selling out to a high bidder. Soon, Ello will offer certain features for a fee. With their astounding growth, one can imagine that there will be many willing to customize their space, offering even greater individuality and diversification. For now, it is safe to say that Ello promises to stand apart from the rest of its social media brethren like the rebellious cousin in every family. And many will feel a genuine kinship with it.