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Say hello to Ello, the anti-Facebook social network

It’s hard getting the word out for a new invite-only, little social network. Once people catch a whiff though, there’s no stopping it. People just can’t resist exclusivity. But that’s not what Ello is meant to be about.

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Since it launched in beta back in July, Ello has been under the radar. Only in the last two months has it started gaining traction, together with some media buzz. That sudden interest has culminated in more than 4 000 people signing up an hour in the last couple of days (according to the Washington Post at any rate).

People are desperate to get on-board too. Someone even sold his invitation to Ello on eBay for US$500:

So how did it suddenly gain so much momentum? Well it has a lot to do with a very big and very unpopular decision recently made by Facebook.

As reported by The Daily Dot, Facebook updated its real name policy a few weeks ago. This means that users are now forced to use their birth names when signing-up to the world’s most popular social network. As with most updates on Facebook, it resulted in a backlash. A large chunk of the LGBTQ community ended-up disabling their accounts and then started a mass exodus to Ello where they wouldn’t be discriminated against.

Apart from this community, Ello’s manifesto tries to speak to the majority of people haphazardly roaming social networks:

“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.”

Kind of creepy, right? It’s rather ironic though that you’re prompted to share the anti social network manifesto on all your social networks. It goes on:

“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.”

“You are not a product,” the manifesto concludes.

The million dollar question — or more specifically — the US$435 000 question remains: how is Ello going to turn a profit? As Waxpancake writes in a blog post, the company raised a US$435 000 round in seed funding in January, which means that the investors are inevitably going to look for a return.

That in turn means that, like most social networks, it’s going to have to find some way of monetising its user base. The conventional way of doing this has been to use the kind of adverts it seems so disgruntled with. More recently though, social networks have started exploring the potential of ecommerce. That doesn’t really solve the advertising problem though, because the people trying to sell stuff need to have some way of letting people know that there’s actually stuff for sale, something which is commonly referred to as advertising.

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