Digital Insights

Is Ello the Facebook Killer or Just a Case of Wishful Thinking?


Published: October 10, 2014

It’s been dubbed the Facebook Killer, and while it may be an interesting concept, it wouldn’t be the first or the last good idea to collapse due to the lack of a sustainable business model.

Meet Ello, a new social media platform launched in March 2014 that has slowly been picking up steam over the past few months to the tune of several thousand new user sign-ups per day by invitation only. The social media upstart is adamant about two things: it won’t mine user data and it doesn’t accept advertising.

Ello’s business philosophy is summed up in its “About” section:
“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. … We believe there is a better way.”

While that sounds good in theory, it raises the question of exactly how Ello will sustain itself and build for the future. According to founder and resident visionary Paul Budnitz, Ello will remain a free platform but will charge members for access to enhanced features. Budnitz claims that the new social media start-up has a source of funding but declined to identify the investors or disclose the amount of funds received to date.

Ello doesn't have ads

Inside the Ello Platform
Ello is currently a pretty sparse landscape that is prone to getting buggy at times, which is understandable considering that the platform is still in beta mode. Ello is visually-oriented in appearance, with a minimal amount of text. An easily concealable toolbar allows users to organize their friends and news feed into one of two categories: “Friends” and “Noise.”

While Ello is easy to navigate and posting is simple and straightforward, there are a number of issues that are already painfully evident.

  • As is to be expected with a new social platform, users are unlikely to find many of their existing contacts and will have to build their friends list from scratch.
  • Ello’s news feed lacks the compelling urgency that brings users back to check for updates.
  • The view counter provides no rating or content relevance grading.
  • The available photo tools leave much to be desired.

Will Users Join Ello in Significant Numbers?
Right now, the biggest thing that Ello has going for it is its anti-advertising stance. Whether that will prove to be a compelling enough reason for joining the fledging social network, assuming one can secure an invitation, is unknown. Even the most naïve social media user understands that advertising revenue is used, at least in part, to fund new and enhanced features.

While Ello’s no-ads policy might resonate with some users, Google Plus doesn’t accept advertising either and offers many more features and capabilities to boot.

For now, Ello appears to be in the right place at the right time. Facebook is seen as being at a critical junction where a considerable portion of its user base is looking to jump ship. Whether they will land on the good ship Ello in significant numbers remains to be seen.