‘ello, Ello: Ad-Free Anti-Facebook Social Network Gains Buzz

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What the ‘ell is Ello? In beta mode since earlier this year, BetaBeat reports that the nascent social network has “suddenly gone nuclear and was pulling in 4,000 invite requests per hour” on Thursday.

“Throughout the day, as word spread that Ello was the new safe haven for people fleeing Facebook’s invasive ads and purge of non-verified users, that number ramped up to over 27,000 and then to 31,000 requests per hour.” 

Why all the buzz? First, it’s still behind a velvet rope, which drives demand out of sheer curiosity, FOMO (fear of missing out) and wanting to be one of the early insiders.

In addition to being invitation-only and free, another lure is that Ello promises it will not sell data to third parties (ahem, Facebook) and will remain ad-free.

Instead, its business model and monetization plan rests on ‘selling special features’ that users can pay for, similar to the mobile gaming world’s freemium model (although some users are skeptical).[more]

It also helps that it’s the brainchild of a cultural creative influencer: Kidrobot founder and designer Paul Budnitz, who’s already busy with a side project in Budnitz Bicycles. Naturally, Budnitz Bicycles has a profile on Ello, so the site may be ad-free but it’s not brand- or commercial-free. It looks like Starbucks has joined the party; Threadless, the crowdsourced t-shirt site, is there; and media brands are already in the mix.

Budnitz has been pitching Ello to his network of tech, media and creative types who are frustrated with Facebook and social networks in general as a clean, uncluttered (i.e. brand-free) space to connect, one with a social conscience and its own manifesto:

“Simple, beautiful & ad-free. Your social network is owned by advertisers. Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold. We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership. We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life. You are not a product.” 

As the Next Web describes it, “It sounds like a hippy commune on the internet, but when you’re tired of the non-stop ads and weird algorithm of Facebook, an ad-free digital zone run by artists seems pretty fantastic.” 

Budnitz, also Ello’s CEO, tells Marketwatch, “We just wanted to create a social network for ourselves.” He describes it as mash-up of Tumblr and Facebook, with a simple interface, and has declined to comment on how his company will make money but did say, “Yes, it’s a for-profit company. Otherwise it could never survive.”

As is now prevalent in the digital world, people have even begun selling invites to Ello on eBay, with 33 invites to join ranging from $5 to $500.

“I don’t know if it’s going to ever be ‘the next big thing,’ but it is definitely in the right place at the right time,” said Christopher-Ian Reichel, a New York-based user experience exec, to MarketWatch. “And Facebook is at a critical moment where entire segments of its audience are all looking to jump ship.”

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