You Have Questions About Ello. We Have Answers

You’ve heard about it—a lot. The seemingly overnight success of the social network Ello, has generated a lot of attention over the past week, positioning itself as a sort of “anti-Facebook.”  We all know that much. But what is it really, and why is it suddenly such a big deal? Here are some answers to burning questions you may have about the next big social thing everyone’s talking about.

Let’s start with the basics. What is Ello?

Ello is an invite-only social network with a promise to keep your data out of the hands of advertisers. Launched earlier this year, the site is run by 47-year-old author, photographer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur Paul Budnitz.

In an interview with Businessweek, Budnitz attributes the network’s popularity in part to user dissatisfaction with Facebook in terms of their policies or their ad practices.

“We don’t consider Facebook to be a competitor,” Budnitz told Businessweek. “We consider them to be an advertising platform more than a social network. Facebook’s customer is the advertiser. Everything they do is to make money for that customer. The thing that is being bought and sold are the users and user data. Our business model doesn’t include any of that. Ello is much simpler and cleaner. A social network is a place to be in contact with each other and talk to friends. If it becomes full of ads, it becomes clunky and cluttered and a little violating. That’s what people are responding to and why they are coming over to Ello.”

What kind of user-experience is it?

I recently made my way on Ello, and I have to say, I’m a fan. It’s uncluttered and clean-looking. It’s pretty organized too. More on that later. . .

Currently invite only, one of Ello’s biggest selling points has been the feeling of exclusivity that comes with needing an insider to give you the all clear. This is the same strategy Gmail took when they first launched, in which I found myself a type of digital panhandler, asking for invites from strangers. Good times.

Still, a social network that’s not particularly social yet makes for somewhat boring user experience. Currently still a bit of a wasteland, Ello has potential, though that likely won’t become clear how much potential it has until the site opens up to the general public

How do I join?

At the moment, users can get started on the social network in one of two ways. First, prospective users can ask a friend on the network for an invite code, which can then be e-mailed to them. The other option is to request an invite from Ello itself on their site. Budnitz tells Businessweek that the site is currently adding between “forty to fifty thousand people” every hour, and that they are doing their best to accommodate requests for invites as quickly as possible.

So how do I use it?

Ello’s interface is about as bare-bones as can be. Profiles are limited to a username, name, bio, and external links. Hop on over to my profile for a quick example of what an Ello profile looks like.

Users can then follow others on the network by going to their profiles and adding them to one of two groups (don’t worry, the people you follow won’t know which group you’ve put them in): “Friends” and “Noise.” As you might have guessed, the “Friends” category is for people whose updates you’d like to see on a regular basis, and “Noise” is for. . .the rest of ’em.

Posting is as easy as clicking on the “Say Ello. . .” box next to your name at the top of your profile. You can also post a note to a friend by including their profile name with an “@” before it. For example, should you want to post to me, you could type, “@parks,” and then write your note.

Adding images to posts is easy. Simply click the “Upload” prompt, choose your photo (or gif!), and upload it to the site. You’ll still have the option of adding text to the post.

So what’s missing?

Currently, the site is lacking in a few key areas; namely, notifications and privacy. At the moment, there’s no in-browser notification panel. Instead, users must select which notifications they’d like to be e-mailed about. I’m not sure about anyone else, but e-mail alerts from social networks have never been my thing, so I set them off, leaving me blissfully ignorant to anything anyone might be saying (that’s not a particularly good thing).

On the topic of privacy, the problem lies in the fact that there really isn’t any. While users have the option to mark your profile as either public or private, that’s about as far as the site’s privacy settings go. There aren’t any “block” features built-in, though the site’s feature page lists user blocking, inappropriate-content flagging, private accounts, video integration, private messaging, and a notification center, among other improvements.

For now, Ello is a cool place to share links, blog posts, and other content; though to a limited audience. Currently, my profile consists of links to my posts at HelloGiggles and elsewhere, along with short notes, and gifs here and there.

Does Ello spell the end for Facebook? Highly unlikely. Will it struggle like Google+? Hopefully not. Is it worth checking out? Absolutely.

Images via, via, via.

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