Photo: Courtesy of Ello.
Facebook users feeling disturbed by the social network's new "real name" policy might finally have found an alternative.
The recent crackdown on Facebook users who are registered under aliases, drew ire from the LGBTQ community, who felt especially targeted after some drag artists were removed from the social network for using their stage names on the site. LGBTQ activists met with Facebook's policy-makers to express their concerns over what they deemed was a form of cyber-bullying, but the social network's brass remained adamant. So, where do people go who've grown weary of Facebook's iron rule?
The brand new social network from Paul Budnitz (filmmaker, artist, author, designer, and the founder of Kidrobot) is being billed as an antidote to massive social networks like Facebook, where advertising dollars and data-mining take priority over the user experience. "We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life," reads Ello's manifesto.
For now, the social network is invite only, just like Facebook was many moons ago. That means the site has become a refuge for cool kids, and creatives who crave freedom of expression. If they happen to be on the cusp of the next big thing too, well that certainly doesn't hurt. In an interview with The Daily Dot, Budnitz made a point to highlight Ello's focus on user-generated content. "Every bit of screen real estate and programming power goes to making an awesome network," he said. "There's no army of ad salesmen telling us what to do." Instead, Ello will make its cheese via user donations, much in the same way Wikipedia does. And, it will not be selling user data either.
The premium Ello places on the user experience feels especially urgent with the added unrest from Facebook's "real name" policy. Budnitz says Ello has exploded to 4,000 new members an hour since the "real name" backlash began, and believes the two are directly correlated. "Ello welcomes the LGBTQ community and we’re very excited to see so many people moving over,” he added.
As for Ello's intuitive interface, we spoke to an early adopter about his experience on the social network so far. "The clean interface is nice and I'm really digging how simple and DIY it feels," said Chris Borger, who has only been using Ello for just over a day. "It could use a few more improvements but it seems like those are on the way based on the current a future features list that they've posted pretty prominently."
But, can it be the Facebook killer that some have predicted?
In January, Princeton researchers released a study predicting that Facebook would lose 80% of its users between 2015 and 2017. As we inch closer to that time frame, it doesn't look like that's going to happen, as the Big Blue Monster still boasts over 1 billion monthly users worldwide.
A major social network hasn't become totally obsolete since Myspace and Friendster lost their ubiquity. Most of our online identities are too dependent on the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, that simply quitting them in favor of something new feels a little too radical. If anything, Ello will become a refuge or an alternative for the small faction of users who need a respite from Facebook's deluge of ads and questionable policies.
"I don't think it'll take any other social sites down, but its lithe-ness has the potential to make Facebook look a lot like a bloated AOL," Borger noted. "It seems like this might be a moment."