Ello...is it the social network you are looking for?

Written by David Somerville - 29 Sep 2014


Like all good social networks, Ello has started off under a shroud of mystery. Around a week or so ago, a few tech bloggers started to talk of a “new social network” that was coming out of the US. The buzz grew and a few stories started to appear in the media. But, just when people started to search for it so they could create an account, it was also revealed that Ello would be in “invite only” mode (just as Google+ had been when that was first released).

People took to Twitter to try and find out exactly how you could get one of these “Willy Wonka golden tickets” to gain access. And this is how I got in myself on Friday evening – I saw a tweet from Danny Sullivan (head honcho at Marketingland and SearchEngineLand) recommending searching for people on Twitter who had invites. So, while many of my work colleagues were out partying, I, like the good geek I am, spent my evening trying to get an invite.

And before long I found one! It was from a tweet by a kind chap in Melbourne, who had just got in himself.
Having used Ello over the weekend, I have got used to it a bit more, but still want to give it more of a workout with some more friends connected.

So what exactly is Ello and should you (or your business) be rushing to get involved?

Ello – the lowdown

Ello is best summed up in the words of its creators:

“Ello is a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers. We originally built Ello as a private social network. Over time, so many people wanted to join Ello that we built a public version of Ello for everyone to use.”

Simple is the key word. It’s black and white, with a low-fi design theme that some commentators have remarked is similar to the early incarnations of Google+. There are also some nice, slick navigation menus that can be hidden away until you need them.

The key ‘USP’ of Ello is that it’s ad free. That’s right, no ads at all. Not now and not ever (according to their manifesto).

This COULD be a real game-changer, with many people now being ambivalent about being advertised to on other networks. However, the questions are being asked already about how they expect to sustain a ‘business’ without ad revenue coming in. Perhaps the answer is that they are simply doing it for the love of creating something good.

So, who are the people behind this latest social media network? Well it was “originally built by a group of seven well-known artists and programmers”. Named individuals include Paul Budnitz, plus Berger & Föhr.

The Mode Set are also cited – a group of “creative technologists who focus on quality and efficiency”.

How does it work?

Like all good social networks you create a profile for yourself (adding a bio, profile picture, header image, etc.) and then go in search of people to connect to. The main difference with Ello is that you can add people as ”friends” or as “noise”. With the friends group, these are meant to be the people you want to see more from and engage with more regularly (in theory therefore your actual real-life friends). With the noise group, these are people that you want to learn about from their posts, but they are not your top network.

Ello social network profile page

In a similar way to “circles” on Google+, the people you add won’t know if you have labelled them as friends or noise.
You post your thoughts or images and can comment on others’ posts, but currently there are no other ways of engaging – there is supposedly a “love” (not ‘like’) function on its way soon.

Should my business have an account on Ello?

It was probably not the intention for Ello to be for businesses, after all it was originally built as a private network, however founder Paul Budnitz has created an account for his bike shop, plus Sonos have been quick to get in on the act as well.

Ellosocial network Sonos account

There are naturally opponents to this move, with some users pointing out that a business page is basically an ad (and Ello is ad free).
If you do decide to create one then perhaps only do so with caution and don’t treat it like another sales channel.
With the network still so young it’s probably best to hold your horses and see what plays out over the next few weeks.

What’s next for Ello?

Like all good tech start-ups, they have a features list, which shows not only what’s available right now but also what’s planned. Some of the forthcoming features include:

  • User blocking
  • Inappropriate content flagging
  • Audio integration (Soundcloud)
  • Private Accounts
  • Rich (multimedia) commenting
  • Mobile web refinements
  • Repost w/ author attributio
  • Notification Center
  • Online/offline user designation
  • Love + Love bookmarking stream
  • Emoji index
  • Video integration (Youtube, Vimeo, Instagram & Vine)
  • @@ Private Messaging
  • Auto-push posts to other networks
  • iOS & Android mobile apps

Ello or goodbye?

In conclusion I would say that if you can get an invite to Ello then definitely set up a profile, add some friends and some “noise”, post some stuff and have a play around.

At this stage I would say the desktop version works slightly better than on mobile (remember there are iOS and Android apps on their way). Also there are a few bugs (such as when you change your profile header it doesn’t always work), but then the site is brand new and these will get ironed out with more feedback.

And if you’re thinking of setting up an account for your brand then just consider the golden rules of all social media network usage:

a) Will your customers be on this network?
b) Would they expect to see you there and want to engage with you there?

Time will tell how this new kid on the block fits in and develops. With no apparent means for revenue generating, it may be hard to sustain something popular with all of the demand that will be placed on it from users.

Also there’s a chance that it could be inhabited largely by people from the tech industry (again as was the case with Google+), which means if users feel their offline network is not on it, then may stop using it and switch back to where they know their friends are still hanging out (i.e. Facebook and Twitter).

We’ll keep an eye on Ello over the next few months and keep you all updated, too.

You can sign-up currently to request an invite to Ello (although on Friday they were apparently receiving 40,000 requests per hour).

And my invitations? Well I do have a few left (at time of writing), so comment here if you want one, but you should probably be quick!