thumbnailHave you heard of Ello yet? It’s a new social media network that has been getting a lot of buzz lately because it’s positioning itself as “the anti-Facebook social platform.” What does that mean? As Facebook finds new ways to learn more about its users so that it can sell those insights to advertisers, Ello is betting that a large and growing number of people want to use a social network that is ad-free and designed to preserve its users privacy. 

Ello has a manifesto that expands upon that idea a bit more. It says: “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.”

Near the end of their manifesto, they have some harsh criticism for other social networks that sell information about their users, but Ello does need to make their case for change strong and focused.

First, they’re correct in that most social media sites are gathering data about their users. They (like Facebook) are selling the data they collect about you to advertisers so that advertisers can give you more targeted ads. That’s how they generate revenue. Ello is taking a different approach to generate income. Rather than sell your data to make money, Ello offers extra features and enhancements you can purchase to use/display on your profile. They are still working out all their income-generating offerings, but they will be designed not invade your privacy.

In addition to not selling your data, Ello does not show ads. Another useful feature is that anyone who signs up for Ello can opt-out of Google Analytics when visiting the site, which stops Google Analytics from using any data Ello may have collected about you. Equally important is that Ello respects the “Do Not Track” settings in browsers, when other networks have found ways to work around this setting.

While Ello does collect location, language, referring websites, and time spent on Ello, before that information is stored, all of the links and all of the connecting information is stripped away and anonymized, meaning it is difficult for Ello, Google, or anyone to trace the data back to any one user.

Ello let’s its users post pictures and written thoughts, and you can make the posts long or short. And similar to Twitter, you can add a @ symbol before the name of a person, and those mentions of the word after the @ symbol show up on your profile.

Another interesting feature is that Ello separates your connections into two categories:  friends and noise. Friends are the people who you deem vital—those whose posts you want to read regularly. Noise are those people you may want to follow but they have less access to you.

Sound good? Well don’t rush out and open your account just yet. Ello is currently in Beta mode and membership is by invitation only, meaning someone already using the site has to invite you to join. Realize, though, that each new user only has 25 invitations to send out, so don’t get upset if you’re not invited early on. Currently Ello is attracting approximately 35,000 invites per hour and growing quite rapidly. So at some point they will most likely open membership to more than just invitations.

Will you join Ello? I think many of you reading this will join because you like the idea of a little more privacy than you’re currently getting on other social media platforms. The challenge is that you have to get your friends to transition over to Ello and use it as well. Despite this challenge, I think there’s a chance for Ello to have some big gains, because there are a lot of people on Facebook who want more privacy. In fact, privacy is becoming more important now than it was back in the early days of Facebook and Twitter, especially considering all the issues that have been developing with cyber-security.

Is Ello truly a Facebook killer? Well, we have over one billion people on Facebook, so it’s going to take a lot of Ello signups to come close to that. But let’s just remember that durring the 1990s, Yahoo was the dominant search engine. Then a couple of young guys started a company called Google, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the same way, Facebook is similar to how Yahoo was at one time. They’re number one now, but that doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed a spectacular future. Someone else may come along with a better idea and take their customers—or at least a good number of them—and Ello has a chance of doing so.

Is it a Hard Trend that Ello will succeed? No. Hard trends are certainties. Ello’s rapid growth is a Soft Trend, which means it is looking good today but it is not a future fact.

In any event, Ello is worth checking out. So when you get an invitation, try it out and see what you think.

Are you currently on Ello? What do you think of it? If you’re not on Ello yet, are you intrigued by the idea of it? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below.