Ello is a social networking service that prides itself on being different from everyone else by having a strong stance on Privacy. With Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter – and other social networks, you aren’t the consumer but the product. The advertisers are the consumers. In the case of Google, this is expected – but many people will find it hard to stomach as being rented out as a product which is pretty much what is happening. While Ello doesn’t quote it this way, this is the premise and the sad truth is they are correct.
Ello claims to be different. They as of 2014-10-01 do not have ads on their site (that I noticed yet), nor do they claim to sell your data to companies. The second claim while it can’t be proven nor disproven is very likely the case. In Ello’s settings, I have a UID which in this case is FSP. I have my email address, password – all of which are required. Optional entries include my name, a bio, and web site(s) links. All of the optional items has little value for marketing. However, as of now, Ello has a long way to go to be a prominent place in the Internet.
Obviously, Ello’s primary premise of a social network that makes you the consumer is a good thing. It is a sad thing to say, but there are very few websites without ads, and very few that has no ads as part of their customer experience policy. The layout is simple. It is easy to navigate, and work with. This means even lay users of the Internet should be able to use this site relatively easily.
Settings give a great deal of control (based on features), and again – relatively simple and straight to the point on the site. Modifying entries is easy too. This however was all done on a Windows 8 PC with a 15.4″ screen running Chrome Web Browser. However I will have to assume the bugs (if any) will be equal across all HTML 5 web browsers. It is this simplicity that also reduces the number of things that can be said about it.
The Friends and Noise settings is nice. You either have friends, or you have people that you would like to follow, but are relatively useless with their posts. No one knows which circle they are in, so that prevents embarrassing conversations.
First, and foremost – the fact the social network is Invite Only. This will likely change, but I would guess not any time soon. Since this site is not running any ads, or selling your information, this likely means the resources they have to handle large numbers coming in will not likely be the case right now. Therefore, this invite only issue is understandable – however it will still turn people off if they have to jump through hoops to get an Ello Invite, and with lack of features and glam, will mean most of those casual users will find little in Ello.
Second is the search Engine. I have found it in a simple word – useless. Unless the person that has the Ello account used it in their real name, or UID – you are not likely to find anything. I have tried to search with various Internet celebrities based on their stage name that claim to have an Ello Account, and nothing. It also seems as if searching with keywords in the bio is not going right neither. So, the search engine seems to be good only if you type exactly the person you are looking for, and maybe you will get it. This is not a search engine – it is a toy, and a broken one at that.
The focus on privacy is also it’s Achilles Heel. Think of it, if there is no demographic information, there is no way anyone can find people based on interests. If they keep to the no selling information policy, then people will be more likely to provide information. The idea of a social network is to be social, and it is hard to do it if you can’t find anyone of interest.
Unfriending could have been better. I got the invite by using a bot that I was now automatically friends with. While I can understand the rationale of this, removing the bot that I am now a friend with didn’t seem to go as smoothly. It was a matter of going to the page, and clicking the relevant circle. A simple Unfriend or Disconnect button would have been easier to recognize.
There is no mobile OS App. This means if you live on your phone or tablet, you have to use a web browser. This could be a turn off to those that only have a mobile device. Ello claims that there is an Android/iOS app being developed, but as of now – there is none.
There is no messaging, nor email service. Simply put, everything seems to be set to be a glorified Twitter. One uses @ for replies, and @@ for direct (private) messages. Again, the premise of being a social network is to be social. And if it is simply easier to use IM or SMS – then that social network is at a disadvantage. Ello doesn’t need to develop their own proprietary Messaging service – just use XMPP or Jabber – both of which is open standards, and non proprietary. Offering an email address might also be a means of standing out a little from the rest. While email addresses are a penny a dozen (figuratively), it will be nice to offer a means in which a person can actually make Ello their primary contact. So, yes http://ello.co/fsp will go nicely with email@example.com. I wouldn’t have a need for one personally, but this could be a benefit for others. Ello could offer free forwarding with a premium subscription for a 1GB account.
I like Ello so far, and I want it to win, I really do. If I didn’t, I would have canceled my account. However, what I want, and what I get is usually two different things. Unless Ello dramatically improves in the next 6 months, they aren’t likely to go well. They don’t have the capital such as Google who until a couple of days ago not only had Google Plus, but Orkut (Orkut has merged with Google Plus).
Ello needs to decide about this invite only thing. At the current rate, they are going to drive people away. They must either do something special to make people want to go to Ello, or they need to open it up, and hope for the best. If Ello is not screaming Special, and they are invite only – no one is going to care. Just look at the One Plus One phone. Invite only, and little special when compared. If you never heard of the One Plus One phone, you have just validated my point.
Ello said they will offer premium features. I will have to say other social networks that went this model hasn’t fared well. In order for Ello to succeed, they must offer services that are worthwhile, affordable, and perceived of a value that exceeds the user’s expectations. If I have to pay $10/month just so I can get noticed on Ello’s front page or upload more images, then I might run back to Facebook.
Also, Ello needs a way to allow people to post to Ello without having to visit the site. This is especially important since they have no mobile platform app. Yes, this will require a bit of developing, but one way to do this might be to allow people to use their email address to write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, they should focus on connecting with IFTT (If This, Then That). Last, if Premium features are offered, please for the love of the gods – support Google Wallet or at the least Google Play. For people that lives in the Google Eco-System (most Android users) will love the integration.
If you are interested in visiting Ello, you would want to go to http://ello.co/. Ello requires an invite code. If you use Twitter, post a desire for an Ello Code using the #ello. Someone will offer a code. For absolute security, use a temporary password, then change to a more permanent one once you have successfully created the account. This is just my recommendation of absolute paranoia.
I will provide an invite code if I feel that you would actually use it. If your facebook post is just pointless reposting of images that others made because you agree with the combination of letters that make words with some vague message, I will not waste my invite on you.