Will Ello be the new Facebook? We investigate

Ello Ello, what’s all this then?

You might have seen the hype about new social networking site Ello. It’s been almost everywhere. In fact, an article about the site was the most read on the BBC News site on Tuesday – pretty much unheard of for a new social networking site.

What is Ello?

Labelled the “anti-Facebook”, Ello, which opened to the public in August, promises no advertising. It looks like a cross between Tumblr and Facebook, with connectivity, lots of pictures and a little personalisation.

Who uses it?

Ello

It’s invite only at the moment, so many of the people who currently use it are mostly arty, creative types who were invited, and the tech-savvy individuals who heard about it first. When a user signs up, they’re given four invites they can send to their friends, so some communities are already being built.

Why the hype?

The site grabbed headlines partly because of its ad-free policy. Facebook’s ads and its propensity to sell users’ data are a huge bugbear for many of its users. Wanting to quit Facebook but not being able to because so much of one’s life if invested there is a growing phenomenon. Facebook’s user numbers may be increasing but younger people who want something their parents aren’t on and those users who have grown bored and resentful of the controlling brand are looking for a way out.

Some people have suggested Ello as a solution to those problems. It’s new, exclusive, trendy-looking and won’t sell your life to advertisers.

If there are no ads, how will it make money?

Founder Paul Budnitz said the site will begin to charge for different features.

“Say you’re a musician or a band, and you want to control multiple accounts from a single login,” Budnitz told Business Insider. “We can charge $2 for that. It’s not for everyone.”

“Let’s say that for a few bucks, you can buy an emoji pack designed by a popular street artist,” he said. “Because of how we’ve built Ello, it naturally lends itself perfectly to that.”

The core experience of Ello will stay free though, Budnitz added, who works on the site with just six other people.

What’s good about it?

Ello

  • The simplicity of the site make it easy to read at a glance
  • It’s less cluttered and in-your-face than Facebook, but more uniform than Tumblr
  • It takes privacy seriously. It doesn’t sell users’ data and even gives the option of allowing users to opt out of Google Analytics
  • It allows you to sort your friends from the “noise” of other users, like a manual version of what Facebook tries to do intuitively

What’s bad about it?

Ello

  • It may be simple to look at but many users have said the interface isn’t as intuitive as other social networking sites
  • It’s boring. This might change when there are more people on there and people start to explore what it can do, but at the moment it’s nothing we haven’t seen before
  • However, a lot of features haven’t been built yet – hence the limited release
  • It’s like Hoxton online – hipsters with fashionable hair posting pictures of mountain streams and bicycles
  • You can’t currently (but that might change) import your contacts from other social media so you have to manually find each one

Will it be a success?

There is certainly a demand for the site, particularly with all the media hype. However, Ello could have already committed one fatal mistake, which could make it over before it has even begun.

The site isn’t ready for the number of users who want to join, so anyone who has put their email address into the site will be invited at a later date. This could really backfire on Ello as by the time the majority of users are able to access it, the hype could be over. Humans are simple creatures: they want to be able to access something as soon as they’re interest is sparked and, ideally, they want it before other people they know. The sad truth is, nobody wants to be one of the first people in their network to discover something but then not let in before the rest of the rabble – that’s how hype works. By the time the acceptance email arrives, many people who were originally interested will have lost enthusiasm and the momentum will have waned. It happened to some extent with Google+ and we predict it will happen with Ello.

Ello

The second thing that challenges Ello’s claim to the Facebook throne is the pricing. It doesn’t look like Ello will charge a lot for the special features it will add – $1 here, $2 there – but what it will do is create a disparity between those who are willing to pay and those who aren’t (there will always be those who won’t pay a penny).

The pricing will have to be correct and the features good enough to make people feel like they want to upgrade, but if the upgrades are too good they’ll turn off those who are flat-out unwilling to pay.

Let’s say for example you have to pay to change background colour (currently not an Ello feature), and if you don’t, are left with the plain profile. For fear of looking cheap with a basic page, users may rather avoid Ello altogether. That’s fine if they’re not paying, right? Wrong. Why do people who hate Facebook stay on it? Because all their friends are there. There aren’t many people who would put money into Ello with no friends on there to see their page. Users who don’t contribute financially do contribute in other ways, and Ello needs to tread a fine line of valuing and respecting the users who don’t contribute financially, as well as those who do.

LondonlovesBusiness.com’s verdict

Ello? Goodbye

Will Ello be the next Facebook? Tweet me your thoughts @robynvinter

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