Meet Ello – new ad-free, invite-only, independent social network, that seems to have gone viral. It first started as a relatively small company of 100 people created by a group of artists and programmers led by Paul Budnitz, whose previous experience include designing bicycles and robots.
Shortly after launching the service, the developers started receiving requests to join the network so they decided to make it public. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission formally acknowledged Ello as an incorporated enterprise in 2013.
Paul Budnitz, one of the Ello’s seven founders, managed to raise $435,000 through FreshTracks Capital. People can sign up on the network as long as they were invited by existing users that are mostly premium artists and designers. One can also request for an invitation.
Because of the limited supply and strong demand, the invitations have been selling on eBay at prices up to $500. Some reports said Ello is getting up to 35,000 requests per hour as a result of a viral surge in the past week.
While Ello’s philosophy differs from other social media sites, its features are relatively standard.
After a new user signs up, one can change a profile photo, add some additional information and more identifying details. The new social network has attracted more users because it doesn’t require people to use their real names.
On the site’s minimally designed dashboard, users can write extensive blog posts or Tweet-length updates and upload images. Like Twitter and Facebook, users can tag friends to direct specific posts at individual people.
An Ello user can mark other Ello-ers as either a “friend” or “noise.” Friends’ posts show up in their entirety in the new feed. Noise posts go into a separate section of thumbnails for quick browsing.
The network’s manifesto claims: “Your social network is owned by advertisers. 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. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.
“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.”
Mr. Budnitz has been more open about the company saying: “My partners and I had lost interest and were fed up with other social networks — exhausted by ads, clutter, and feeling manipulated and deceived by companies that clearly don’t have our interests at heart.”
“We’re not Facebook. Our mission was never to grow fast,” Budnitz told BetaBeat in April. “Our mission here is to make a great social network. We don’t want to be bombarded with so many people that the network is no good.”
According to the latest data from the Pew Research Centre, 71% of adults who use the internet use Facebook – an enormous proportion. However, while Ello is still undergoing beta testing, recent weeks have seen a mass-influx of users to the site – users who are apparently becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Facebook.