For years now Facebook has been the popular kid of social media sites, but it may be time for it to face(book) the music and leave the prom, as new networking site Ello looks like it might be taking over the title of Queen Bee. It’s ad-free, anti-selling our data and, some are saying, the new Facebook (or – more accurately – the anti-Facebook). Could its popularity mean a new era of social media, and awareness of how our data is being used, or will it be a short lived reign?
It may sound like it’s a mash up between a cockney greeting and bad TV catchphrase, but that’s not holding back new networking site Ello. After opening itself to all users in August, it’s now doubling in size every three to four days, with over 30,000 invite requests an hour. At a glance it looks like something between Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter – you create a profile then follow people, classing them as ‘friends’ or ‘noise’, to tailor the stream of posts you see. On the front page are profiles of current ‘favourite’ users, and there seems to be more of a focus on fancy pictures and stuff. The hipsters will love it.
So why is it so popular? For starters, its minimalist look is designed to be “simple, beautiful, and ad-free”, which is pretty appropriate in a world of minimalist attention spans. It also doesn’t require real names for profiles, which has caused a massive rush from the LGBT community; especially as Facebook now disables any accounts with fake or stage names. And it also doesn’t sell you faster than a cheap turnip at a farmers’ market; seriously, most people’s data would go for less than a dollar, and yet FB still gives our browsing behaviours to ad companies.
The Ello manifesto, by comparison, is totally against these data shenanigans, saying: “Your social network is owned by advertisers. 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.”
Facebook, on the other hand, says it sells your data to ‘bring you more relevant ads’ but in reality it’s kinda creepy. By selling our data it means that if you’re on Facebook and also looking at buying glitter in another tab, next thing you know you’re back on FB and it’s showing you where you can buy glitter by the kg on eBay (seriously – by the kg). This used to be mostly done by third parties but now it’s Facebook sending out your info to advertisers. You can opt out through mobile settings or through the Digital Advertising Alliance opt out form, although this only works on the browser that you’re using at the time (and actually doesn’t always work anyway).
Ello is invite only, which is reminiscent of the days when you had to be with an academic institution to get access to Facebook (the golden days before my mum could see all my activity) – though you can buy an invite on eBay or, even better, hunt for one for free on Twitter.
The decision to go ad free has raised questions about how it will fund itself, but it’s saying it will charge for certain features (like running multiple accounts for the same user – which could be useful for work/personal situations); although whether people will want to pay for things they can get for free on other sites is debatable. It might show how much we actually care about who’s got our data; though as it received a massive seed funding investment, some take as a sign it’s already sold its users.
There’s still speculation about whether it’ll be ‘ello, goodbye’, or if the site will last, but it shows that there is a desire for a new kind of social site; and as people become more aware of data selling and the like, sites like this could be the way forward.
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