You may have seen people tweeting or posting about the new social network Ello. It’s touting itself as a revolutionary social network (currently in Beta testing) promising an ad-free experience.
“Virtually every other social network is run by and for advertisers. Data about you is auctioned off to advertisers and data brokers,” part of their Manifesto reads. “Under the guise of offering a free service, users of other social networks pay a high price in lack of privacy and intrusive advertising.”
They’re not wrong. We’ve known for a while that Facebook manipulates and sometimes shows you eerily accurate advertisements based on your interests and activities online. While most people (including me) don’t care enough to complain, it can be a bit unsettling.
Ello is anti all that. They don’t like ads, or clutter, or any sort of excessive noise on a page. As the site says, “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.”
Well hell yeah, I like beauty and partnership and all that stuff too, so as soon as I got the invite I jumped on in.
It is what it promises: it’s simple, minimal, and, of course, there are no ads. You “Friend” people with just a click, and can “follow” them even if they’re not your friend. It’s easy to see why so many people are ready to flock to a network whose only downside is that a lot of your friends aren’t on it yet.
Also, your header can be a .gif, which is the greatest thing to ever happen to a social network. Currently, mine is one from Space Jam.
Drag queens jilted by Facebook’s new real name police state are moving over to Ello. People fed up with intrusive ads are too. It’s only a matter of time before the whole internet has had it with the ceaseless marketing and looks for something better.
But that begs another question: cost. How will Ello sustain itself without generating any ad income?
Their solution is one of optional payment. “Very soon we will begin offering special features to our users. If we create a special feature that you like, you can choose to pay a very small amount of money to add it to your Ello account forever,” their Ad-Free info page reads. “We believe that everyone is unique and that we all want and need different things from a social network. So, we are going to offer all sorts of ways for users to customize their Ello experience.”
That sounds ok with me, unless that “very small amount of money” is petty like a tech magnate’s French Laundry check is.
In any case, site founder Paul Budnitz (who hails from Berkeley) seems to be on the right track with it. “We’re inspired by the way Radiohead introduced In Rainbows, as a free download with the same pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth policy,” he told Motherboard.
Now that’s the sort of business model I can support.