Ello Ello, What’s This New Social Network, Then?

This new website is 'simple, beautiful and ad-free', or so it says. We go inside its workings to see whether it's really the new Facebook...


by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

Fed up of Facebook, tutting at Twitter, irritated by Instagram? Well, Ello is meant to be the new social network. And people are joining in their droves? Why? Because, as it says, it’s ‘simple, beautiful and ad-free’. But is it really? We joined (and tried to get to grips with it) to tell you if it totally is.

Unlike other social networking sites heaving with losers from school and distant older relatives, Ello has an air of exclusivity around it because you can only gain access via a passcode. This will get sent to you either when someone cooler than you (who’s already on it) invites you to join, or when you simply request an entry passcode. The moderators seem to be indiscriminately inviting people who request, so for all its lofty appearances, it’s really not too tough to get involved.

Once you’re on, you’re lead to a site that tells you very little about how it works. There’s the ‘simple’ part. It’s so stark and clean, like the kitchen of any Nordic drama involving a socially-awkward police investigator, that there’s no direction for how to make the bloody thing work.

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We might be tech-savvy, but without the traditional formats of social media we’ve become so used to (walls, timelines etc), we need arrows and stuff to help us get to know a place. We actually want that Microsoft Paperclip to pop up and tell us what to do. However, after a few clicks around, it makes a bit more sense. But obviously you need friends on there for it to really click.

So who’s there to make friends with? From the looks of it, lots of creative types and gays. But it’s growing beyond that. Ello is getting 27,000 new sign-ups an hour right now, not only because of the ‘ad-free’ thing (more on that later), but because many LGBT people want to leave Facebook. Why? According to The Daily Dot, it’s removing the profiles of trans people and drag performers who like to use fake names on the site (in a lot of cases, they do this for safety and freedom of expression). So over on Ello, LGBT users join the ranks of all the nerds and tech-types who will cotton onto any new tech development.

Ello certainly has the look of a cosmopolitan-yet-nerdy base of users. You set up a profile – mainly photo-based, featuring an avatar, a cover image then a tiny ‘bio’ section, then you find some friends and begin posting. Though text posts are interesting, the main format for posting seems to be images – and beautiful, artsy ones at that, all minimal just like the beta set-up of the site. You interact with people by commenting under each other’s set-ups.

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Everyone using ello will find their posts go to the ‘Noise’ section. These aren’t tirades about immigration, jokey tales of missing trains or exclamations about The X Factor. They’re a beautiful cascading Tumblr-style tiling of every single post ever made on ello. Scroll through and you get an idea of how aesthetically-led the entire thing is. As the site’s bio says, it’s ‘beautiful’. And it looks like your post can only stay there if it gets a lot of positive feedback. We think.

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It’s encouraging, as is the fact that the more people joining, the more sense it seems to make. The site also has a list of future features on it, like an ‘emoji index’ and ‘omnibar edit posts’ whatever those are, and we look forward to seeing them unveiled, most of all ‘inappropriate content flagging’.

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And those adverts? Well, there’s more to that ‘ad-free’ promise, according to one blogger. See, ello arrived the very same week that Instagram, like its forebears Twitter and Facebook, unrolled ads (starting with a Starbucks one for us, thanks Instagram for totally getting that we only drink caffeine when we want to spend an entire evening shaking and feeling like we might have wet ourselves).

However, it has left us wondering how the people working on the site actually make a living. Turns out that it’s all funded by venture capital, which basically means some people have given the creators of ello loads of money to build a network. Once that network is built, the creators hand the money over to the big-money types who gave them that money in the first place. And you can bet they’re going to want some of their investment back. How would they do that? Well, one way would be advertising, so maybe Ello’s not exactly what it says it is. But isn’t that everyone on social media anyway?

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Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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