It’s being called the “Anti-Facebook.”
You’re familiar with Facebook, the obese, greedy social networking cowboy that pretty much does what it wants. It owns your pictures and reserves the right to use them for its own evil purposes. It runs smear campaigns against Google and just kind of shrugs its shoulders when caught. And lately, it shuts down the pages of people who are obvious about not using their real names on it. Uh oh, you just pissed off the LBGT community, and that’s worse than stepping on Google’s shoes.
(Google, I love you, but you’ve broken my hopeful heart that you could ever overtake this monster [which I still actively use, admittedly] and then fallen completely flat on your beautiful face with Google Plus. Which I really don’t understand, because Google is the top hit site for almost every country with internet access and is worth close to $4 Billion.)
I have to wonder if Facebook’s latest zuck-up has anything to do with the timing of the announced Google+ breakdown. Perhaps they got nice and cozy in the fact that people seemed to have no viable alternative for connection. As Zuckerberg put it, “Look, we’re a business. We’re going to make money. If you don’t like it, you can find other websites.” Perhaps that time has come.
It’s strange to me that this is where people are jumping ship to. It’s still very basic (there isn’t even an app for it – oh my!) in its beta mode, though I’m sure its developers have been working like crazy to get it up to snuff for the massive surge in sign ups (I’ve been seeing reports of 20,000-30,000 per hour, with the userbase doubling every few days.)
Ello doesn’t care if you use your real name. Really it doesn’t even care if you post porn, as long as you use the NSFW feature to warn others when that feature is ready. It avoids the drama of friend requests, yet cuts back on the noise found on Twitter. This is done by the “follow” feature (Twitter-y) being broken down into two categories, “friends” and “noise.” That means you can switch back and forth between the people you know and the people you find interesting. Nice touch, Ello.
Of course it has some Facebookish components, like a cover photo and some semblance of a wall, but there’s no “like” button for posts and its not clear if there will be. Another thing that’s missing from Ello: game invitations. Hallelujah! Let’s hope that stays consistent.
Which brings me to the chief concern of Ello’s critics: How will it monetize? Running this kind of site is neither free nor moderately cheap, and the bit of seed money they’ve gotten isn’t going to last forever. Their solution is a “freemium” model, in which users who want certain features (like white text on a black background, or two profiles with a single login) can shell out for it. Honestly I don’t think that’s going to be enough to sustain this network if it hopes of becoming as big as Facebook. Generally only 1% of freemium mobile game users ever put real money into the game, regardless of how tempting an offer the game makes. So companies like Electronic Arts (makers of Sims Freeplay) and Ivanovich (creators of Letris) have gotten creative at working advertisements into the games. BUT since Ello has sworn itself to be anti-advertising, this isn’t going to be a possibility for them, and I for one am not paying extra for a black background.
What I would love to see happen would be for that billionaire Google I mentioned before to take little Ello under its wing, with more seed money or even an acquisition with a hands-off approach, if nothing else but to shut Facebook up.
If that doesn’t happen, I would bet that this Ello business is short-lived, unfortunately, like all the others. I don’t think it was designed to be gigantic, as ello.com was already taken and there are several businesses and a couple apps with the same name. I’m happy to see where it goes, but personally I’m not getting my hopes up again like I did for Google+.
So far it seems most people are signing up and checking it out, but not really sharing content, which does not bode well for this little bird.
One last note – I find it pretty entertaining that the wild-fire like trend of signing up for a new social network is being largely shared via Facebook. If you want to track how many people actually deactivate their accounts, search “Who Unfriended Me” in the Facebook bar – that app will show you which of your friends deactivate their accounts… and of course those who just don’t like you anymore.