Ello is a social media network which originally started as a private platform but opened up to the general public after great expressed interest in its “simple, beautiful & ad-free” experience. “Ello doesn’t sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third parties,” states the website’s About section. This is both the foundation of, and the draw to, Ello.
The company’s founders passionately express their views and purpose in Ello’s ethics-driven manifesto:
Ello’s idea is admirable, but is it viable? Possibly. To prove commitment to its promise never to use ads or data mine for the purposes of selling users’ information, the company became a Public Benefits Corporation in October 2014. (Read Ello’s PBC Charter.) Instead of generating revenue via these typical means, Ello has future plans to offer upgrades and customization options at a fee. As long as users are willing to pay for their privacy and an experience with content that’s not littered with sales pitches, Ello should continue to have a market. However, It may run into problems when users are faced with the decision of handing over their cash to enjoy the same level of experience as others on the site. While this clean and simple platform’s aesthetic expression is equitable and free to all, people will not have to ask themselves how much it is really worth to them. Once users begin to see and feel as though they are missing out on something better, though, some may jump ship if they decide the value no longer exists.
Lastly, whereas Ello is built on its users’ emotional investment in the company’s ethics and integrity, the social media giants of the internet thrive on individuals’ emotional investment in their friends and family. Convincing people to abandon the comfort of their established social media networks essentially means prying them away from the digital neighborhoods in which they’ve grown up, bidding farewell to the constant connection on which they are dependent. This will be no small feat if it is part of Ello’s vision for the future.
Ello has great potential, but its path is fraught with challenges. It will be interesting to see if the public’s resonation with ethics, integrity, and the promise of privacy can transcend the deeply rooted connections already established amidst the ads and noise of today’s most popular social media platforms.