Ever since Facebook started advertising campaigns, people have been trying to create an anti-Facebook – a social network completely ad-free and anti-big data to rival social media giants Facebook and Twitter. Now, someone might have just cracked it.
Ello is a new upstart social network that has set out to be the new king of social media. This week saw the platform explode as its small team scrambled to deal with a surprise influx of members, with as many as 35,000 people requesting membership invites every hour.
Ello makes it clear that it is the opponent of Facebook. Its manifesto on the homepage begins with the statement ‘your social network is owned by advertisers.’ It continues: “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.”
The manifesto ends with the clear statement “You are not a product.” So what is the start-up’s strategy for growth? Ello’s founders believe that they have created a site that will never sell user data to advertisers, or introduce a paywall. The website would have to maintain its current rate of growth in order to threaten Facebook, or even become a speck on their radar, but stranger things have happened.
The new social network was originally built as a private social network. Over time, so many people wanted to join that the creators built a public version that everyone can use. Access to the network is, at the moment, by invitation only via email. Yet, after the recent spike in popularity (user applications for invites have fluctuated between 20,000 and 35,000 an hour forcing the site to slow down its acceptance of new users in order to deal with the scale of its new base) interest in the company has become so huge that invites to join the social network began trading on eBay for as much as $100.
Ello is a social network that has been designed with the intent to be run as cheaply as possible, with the incentive that personal data won’t be stored and there will be no adverts in the news streams. Yet, with the current influx of applications, the start-up might be forced to introduce features, which cost money. With all the buzz currently around Ello, there have also been a lot of doubts around the company’s business model after it was uncovered that Ello received nearly $500k from tech venture-capitalists FreshTracks Capital, which they will no doubt have to pay back at some point.
Only time will tell whether or not this appeal with have a long term effect, or whether people will give in and accept that they can’t hide from a world of adverts and big data. However, this sudden spike in memberships for the new social network may just make the big boys in the social game turn their heads and accept that people want to be connected, but hidden.