Thousands of People Are Joining Ello, the Anti-Facebook — But Will It Last?

Source: Screenshot: Ello

Do you have any friends who have been making noise about quitting Facebook? Here's where they might be ending up.

Ello, a new social media startup, is trying to siphon users away from Mark Zuckerberg's behemoth by promising to be everything Facebook isn't. And so far it's working — at one point Thursday, the site was adding 31,000 new users an hour, according to Vox.

"Ello is a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers," the site says on its about page. "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."

Source: ello.co

The differences: Right now, Ello is invite-only. But if you do snag an invite — or wait until it's open to everyone — you can expect a few key differences from the familiar Facebook.

While users can post, comment and check updates from their friends, they won't see any ads in the process. The company says it won't sell any advertising, nor will it sell users' data to third parties. This idealistic outlook is explained in the Ello "manifesto":

Source: ello.co

Another feature Ello includes to spite its competitor is the ability to use the name you want. Facebook came under fire from the LGBTQ community for forcing users to use their "real" name, shutting down profiles of people who were instead using chosen names and identities.

Given the lack of ads, how will Ello make any money? The company says it will start offering premium services for small payments as a way for users to support the site.

Will it last? That's the million-dollar question (quite literally, as tech funders decide whether they want to pour their money into Ello). While it's easy to find people bemoaning Facebook's ubiquity, it's sometimes just as hard to imagine not using the social network. 

That's because popularity is Facebook's biggest asset — you want to share things with your friends, and you know that almost all your friends are on Facebook. Ello may be growing quickly, but it needs to get big enough that people feel comfortable jumping ship without losing too many connections.

There's no saying whether the site will last, though earlier social network competitors like Path and Diaspora didn't exactly end up going anywhere. There's also the question of whether Ello can adhere to its manifesto if it starts to get huge. After all, Facebook — as Ello concedes — didn't start off with any ads either.

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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