Is newest social network Ello more like ‘Eh’lo?

This is what the home screen looks like for an Ello user -- the photo in the feed is too large to fit on the screen. (Ello screenshot)

WASHINGTON — There are lots of ways to say hello.

Hi. Aloha. Howdy.

And over social media, the salutations change form: There’s the poke, the love, the like, the wink.

But a new anti-social networking site wants to change things up a little.

Welcome to Ello.

The ad-free, invite-only site is free and proclaims that it will stay that way forever. Occasionally, according to Ello’s “About” page, it will offer users special features, and they can pay a small amount to support the site. There aren’t any Ello mobile applications yet, but they are in the works.

As one of those who received an invite when Ello’s beta testing launched, I’ve had a few days to spend with the site. Initial reaction: I’m not so sure.

These days, the initial reaction when joining many social sites is to pull in your Facebook friends list or add your contacts. On Ello, I needed to selectively invite my initial contacts, search for usernames that I already knew, or attempt to befriend strangers who were suggested to me, many of whom already had thousands of followers (somehow) and probably didn’t need a stranger as a friend.

I didn’t mind being selective and inviting friends. But having “cool” people suggested to me made it feel a bit disingenuous. I thought we were getting away from that?

But, before the public beta launch on Sept. 24, a small Aug. 7 launch with about 90 people took place. And while Ello CEO Paul Budnitz tells me he’s not releasing all of the numbers, he says since the semi-public Sept. 24 beta launch on Sept. 24, about 31,000 people per hour have been invited.

Much of that traction is curiosity about the site itself and about whether it, or anything, can take on the giant that is Facebook. And Ello isn’t the first to try. Most know what happened with Google+ and Diaspora. In fact, some haven’t even heard of Diaspora.

But Ello has some features that set it apart from Facebook and Twitter. Privacy and advertising are big ones.

Part of Ello’s ad policy reads, “Collecting and selling your personal data, reading your posts to your friends, and mapping your social connections for profit is both creepy and unethical. Under the guise of offering a ‘free’ service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy.”

True to its word, I haven’t seen a single ad on Ello.co (.co, not .com).

“On top of that Ello is very fast and fun. We don’t really consider networks like Facebook as competition, because they aren’t really social networks. They’re advertising platforms.

Ello is a social network — that’s all we do,” says Budnitz.

Additionally, the site plans to be friendly to those posting NSFW (Not Safe for Work) content — such as nudity.

“We don’t have a problem with porn at all. But we would have a problem with bestiality or porn that encourages people to hurt each other, or anything that has to do with children,” Budnitz told tech siteBetaBeat.

But Bunditz also tells WOP that anyone older than 13, “who is willing to follow the rules,” can use the site.

But Ello’s full policy on porn is still being decided, according to Bunditz. Once it’s finalized, a statement will be issued.

“Ello lets you follow, or not follow, anyone you like. If you don’t want to see a users content, simply don’t follow them. Your feed is up to you.”

Ello also doesn’t need to know its users’ names. Facebook came under scrutiny recently whenprofiles were deleted that had stage names. Drag artists and even musicians complained. While Facebook reinstated some profiles, it hasn’t necessarily changed its policies.

But Tumblr user Creatrix Tiara points out on the blog NotYourEx/rotic that the lack of privacy settings on Ello could make some information more vulnerable. The content posted on Ello, according to Ello itself, can be accessed by anyone in the world.

“You should assume that anything you post on Ello other than private messages will be accessed by others. Search engines will be able to see the content you post,” reads the policy.

Creatrix Tiara says some of these policies can make users more vulnerable to harassment, especially if they are trying to shield themselves from abusers. But Ello is still in beta testing, and has a long list of features in the works, including user blocking and private accounts.

“We’re listening to the Ello users and realigning features based on user feedback,” says Nudnitz. “Along with making sure the site is running well. We’re very much still beta.”

Ello is ad-free and free for users, but some people are finding a way to make money: By selling the invites on Ebay. If you want my advice — please don’t pay for an invite to Ello. After all, remember when Gmail was invite-only?



So, is Ello a revolution or is Ello more like … Ehlo? Only time will tell. But while Ello is a website on the Internet, for many, Facebook and Twitter are the Internet.

To be my friend on Ello, click here, or request an invite.

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