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Privacy-friendly ad-free ‘anti-Facebook’ network Ello

Posted in Illuminatus on September 27th, 2014

A mostly obscure, privacy-orientated social network – an ‘anti-Facebook’ of sorts – has recently undergone meteoric growth. It poses itself as an advert-free enterprise which is not going to become a tool to manipulate its users.

‘Anti-facebook’ network Ello kicked off in July as an invite-only social network seeking to have an advert-free user-orientated role rather than becoming a profit-generating enterprise, according to its manifesto.

“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,” it points out.

Ello pledges that it will never sell user data to advertisers, forfeiting the one source of income keeping afloat online giants like Facebook and Google. Instead it attempts to cover expenses by selling premium features, such as managing several accounts from a single login – a service that appeals to privacy-focused users.

“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,” Ello calmly states.

This ‘social network with a conscience’ approach appears to be filling a large gap in the market given Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policy and targeted advertisements.

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.

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Since going viral, requests to join Ello went to over 27,000 per hour. Twitter overflowed with invite requests while eBay spurred an enormous black market for them. Ello briefly suspended new invites and experienced a website crash, which is understandable for a website that’s technically still in beta mode.

The Ello team also had to address new users’ concerns, pledging a zero-tolerance policy toward “hate, trolls, spamming, stalking, impersonating others, threats and abusive behavior toward anyone.” At the request from erotic artists and sex workers it changed posting rules to allow porn material (once NSFW tagging is rolled out) – as long as it isn’t something illegal, like child pornography.

Between fighting technical glitches, developing new features like making a profile private, and dealing with the unexpected scale-up, Ello say they will be true to their manifesto. Many wonder whether its black, eyeless smiley logo may one day become as ubiquitous as the white-on-blue word “Facebook,” or will sink back into obscurity once the fad passes.

Those who are more skeptical suspect that Ello is just a case of clever niche marketing that is bound to become as bad as the big players it criticizes.

However, it is currently remaining defiant in the face of such suggestions. While sales of the features – which will go for an estimated $1 or $2, Ello is relying on the fact that it will be inexpensive to maintain such a website.

In the “coming soon” section, the site says that its users can expect audio integration – such as soundcloud, the ability to ‘block’ other users, and video integration, among other things.

Source: ‘You are not a product': Privacy-friendly ad-free ‘anti-Facebook’ network Ello.

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