Murmurs of dissent against the original social media overlords Facebook have grown steadily over the past couple of years.
Since their much-publicized stock market flotation, aggressive drive towards more advertising and seeming disregard for applying the changes their users actually want (not to mention the totally frustrating news feed algorithm), Facebook has quickly become the Internet’s byword for stale and uninviting.
With Twitter taking over as the medium of choice, there seems to be a vacuum forming for a new contender to make a challenge.
Ello has swiftly been dubbed the ‘anti-Facebook’ in some quarters. Why? Well, let’s take a look at the very beginning of their manifesto: “Your social network is owned by advertisers,” it says. “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.” It’s also currently invite-only. People’s desire to peek behind the newly-installed curtain is evidently overpowering.
It even offers anonymity; something that Facebook’s incessant demands for your phone number, shoe size, favorite food, and everything else, denies you.
It has served to capture the Internet’s imagination. Even Ello’s founders have been shocked at the speed of the uptake for the new service. As well as receiving anywhere from 20,000 to 35,000 invite requests per hour, an intriguing twist has developed.
When Facebook stated that drag performers would not be allowed to use their stage names on their pages and profiles, there was uproar in the online LGBT community, who saw Facebook’s stance as an attack on their trade and privacy.
So the drag queens and their associates have mobilised, denounced Facebook and plan to use Ello as their new base of online operations. In terms of good PR, it’s a fantastic start. It even had a name: “The Great Gay Facebook Exodus.”
For the muck-spreaders among you, there’s even a lax policy on porn and other NSFW content. Despite having a no smut policy originally, the site’s owners have since done a 180. As a concession to people who are determined to shy away from different parts of the human spectrum, there is a non-NSFW mode that filters the information you receive.
Invites have begun trading on eBay at the tidy starting sum of US$100. What are we witnessing here? Is this the start of a new social media revolution or Internet prospecting gone utterly mad?
It’s probably a little of both. Facebook has long been shadowed by the notion that they could eventually ‘do a MySpace’ and disappear into a black hole of errant commercialism, too many changes and a seventh circle of fake profiles. Given its size and popularity, it may be too big to fail and present a major challenge to be usurped by Ello.
Add to the mix the fact that the internet is a fickle mistress and Ello is in the strange position of having as much chance to succeed as it does to crash and burn.