10 Oct 2014

Ello: What you need to know

9:15 am on 10 October 2014

No doubt you’ve noticed frantic mentions of Ello in your newsfeeds. It’s the social network being touted as the next big thing, the game changer, and the Facebook slayer.

Yet with so many forms of social media to keep up with already, is Ello the real deal? Like all burgeoning relationships, sometimes you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth the time and energy to hook up, get acquainted, and commit to spending ongoing time together, or whether it’ll become just another fleeting fancy that we attribute to hype and overblown expectations. A bit like fruit flavoured beer, New Year’s Eve, patterned leggings or, heaven forbid, Robin Thicke.

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Photo: Unknown

What is Ello?

They say: “Ello is a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers.”

I say: “Grown-up Tumblr.”

What’s all the fuss about?

Ello’s creators claim that the platform was founded out of exasperation with the clutter, noise, and advertising heavy direction that “other” social networks had recently taken. Oh Ello. You don’t need to be polite. We know exactly who you’re talking about.

Seven artists and programmers created Ello, for use amongst immediate friends, and launched in March 2014, complete with its own manifesto. Six months later Ello exploded into public consciousness. This was largely due to the LGBTQ community, having fled Facebook due to enforcement of real name policy and concerns over user privacy and safety, made Ello their new home.

Reports claim at the end of September 2014, Ello was receiving some 30,000 membership requests per hour.

How does Ello compare to other platforms?

If we think of social networks as our nearest as dearest, then Facebook is your interfering, yet dependable Mum, Twitter your well informed and chatty best friend, and Tumblr your pop culture fuelled younger sibling.

This makes Ello your stylish, sexy and intriguing new colleague. They are from somewhere such as Iceland or Berlin. They once went to the most-amazing-most-secret-warehouse-party in Bushwick where they claim they met Bill Murray. They own a plethora of vintage Scandinavian inspired knitwear and predominantly hangs out with artists, fashionistas and creative types.

However, the fact that they are new in town, and their English isn’t quite up to scratch, means that there are limitations in communication and usefulness (not that you particularly care, because Ello is hot, and you want to flirt with it so bad).

If Ello is so sexy, what does it look like?

Ello is sleek, clean and minimal. Its colour scheme is black and white, its logo is a smiling black circle. It’s like being in a sparsely stocked pop-up design store that sells teeny tiny $150 canvas pencil cases and white porcelain pineapples.

What does Ello do?

You can post, you can comment and you can follow. That’s about it for now. Posts are limited to text, images and links. You can’t yet embed videos, articles or music like you can on Facebook. However you can embed gifs. Thank goodness.

Posting is simple and fuss free. You simply type or drag and drop images into a series of horizontal boxes, which act like building blocks. You can shuffle the order of boxes before posting. This is a really smart feature that offers a lot of freedom and flexibility.

Those who you follow can be designated to one of two groups: Friends and Noise. Friends are your nearest and dearest. Everything they post shows in your newsfeed. Noise is for those you’re interested in but don’t want to see every time you check in. It’s a nice touch, and certainly helps keeps your newsfeed streamlined and relevant.

Most users post the same two comments when they first join Ello: “Is this it?” and “What do I do?” To which the answers are: “Yes” and “Whatever you want!” 

Are there any limitations?

Ello’s biggest flaw is the lack of basic features that we’ve come to expect to come as standard.

You can’t (big breath): block users, flag inappropriate content, private message, like, share, receive notifications other than via email and embed video. Searching for other users, and commenting on posts feels clunky and inefficient. There is also no app, which is a huge flaw considering that mobile devices have become the primary method of accessing and posting to social networks.

Having said that, all of these features are being developed as we speak, though no timeframes have been provided. It’s just a shame that these features weren’t up and running in time for peak-hype.

What’s Ello’s policy on privacy and security?

Ello claims that they will never sell user data to advertisers or third parties, never show advertisements, not enforce a real-name policy and maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward so-called abusive behaviours.

However users should also be aware that everything posted can be seen by all users, that authorisation is not required to be able to follow someone, and, as of yet, you cannot block users.

Ello’s not really the new Facebook, then, is it?

No, not yet. But it has the potential to be if two things happen:

1.         Users continue login, post and interact.

2.         The absent features, that we’re told are in development, are implemented. And soon.

How do I join?

Ello likes to play hard-to-get. You have to request an invite via the site, and then wait by your inbox. Or, you can sweet talk an existing member to send you an invite, as everyone gets given five upon signing up.  

This invite-only system has created an air of mystery and exclusivity which has contributed greatly to the hype and sudden demand. There have been reports of people in the US purchasing invites on eBay for up to $100, which is utterly bonkers as $100 buys a lot of Twix and gin, and I know which I’d rather have.

So, should I sign up?

If you enjoy posting visuals and text, as you would on Tumblr, and believe you have the capacity to incorporate Ello into your social media portfolio, then yes, jump aboard!

Ello has potential to be a lot of fun, and has many great things going for it: its minimalist layout is simple to learn and easy on the eye, there are no limitations on post size, and the lack of advertising is very refreshing.

Most importantly, Ello can be whatever you want it to be. It’s a blank canvas, free of expectations and rules. You can use your account for traditional social interaction, networking, or, if you desire, you can use it solely for posting photos of cats wearing hats made from vegetables.. There’s no pressure to be anyone or anything on Ello, and that’s a rather lovely feeling.

After all, that what we’re all looking for in a new relationship?