Ello is a new social network developed by a Burlington, Vermont, company. If you don’t know that many people that use Ello, that’s because this network is invite-only. Ello wants to be the anti-Facebook (or anti-social network, really) by not allowing advertisers to advertiser or track user data in any way.
In fact, Ello has recently registered as a “public benefit corporation,” which means that the company can never allow advertisers to infiltrate the site. By legally registering as a public benefit corporation, there’s no way that the company can ever go back on its word not to allow advertisers access to Ello.
Raising Funds Without Advertising
While those that use social networks probably don’t love the idea of information being bought and sold to advertisers (and constantly seeing ads in news feeds), the fact of the matter is that without advertisers, social networks would have a really hard time generating revenue. Ello has successfully raised $5.5 million in Series A funding, but that injection might not be enough to keep the company afloat.
This past September, Ello’s popularity exploded as people rushed to sign up for an Ello account following a move by Facebook to ban users that did not use real names. People seeking a different network from Facebook move to Ello, and the new network saw tens of thousands of users sign up within just a few weeks. But shortly after the September rush, Ello’s new user numbers started to drop.
The obvious question here is: how will Ello make money without advertising? Speculatively, the short answer might be: by charging users various fees. Right now, the site is free for anyone that’s invited to use (remember, you have to get the invite first), but Ello may soon start charging for premium features. Charging users seems to be the logical way for Ello to make money, though site founders haven’t said anything about this possible revenue stream yet.
A lot of publications are also heralding Ello as the new Facebook, but this wasn’t the original intent of the company, it seems. Ello founders simply wanted to develop a social network that wasn’t ad-based, and that’s what has happened here. Whether or not Ello wants to beat Facebook remains to be seen, but that doesn’t seem to be why this company was founded.
Getting an Invite
As mentioned, Ello is invite-only. To get your invite, sign up for an invite on the Ello homepage, or find someone that has invites to give out. Right now, the group consists mostly of artists and other trend makers that showcase things like opinions and artwork, so it’s not really the kind of social network that’s filled with memes and baby photos (and that’s more than okay with some).
Some are calling Ello elitist, but it’s simply a different kind of social network. Whether or not Ello is for you is a different story - and only one that you can discover if you actually get that invite, but you may have to get in line, or wait until the Ello craze is complete.