In Depth

Ello: what you need to know about the 'anti-Facebook' social network

Fast-growing new site Ello promises 'beauty, simplicity and transparency' – and no advertising

Interest in Ello, a social network that tech experts are calling the "anti-Facebook" exploded this week as hundreds of thousands of people requested membership to the new service. 

Ello, the invention of toy designer Paul Budnitz, aims to be an "ethical" alternative to social networking services with no advertising, no exploitation of user data and no manipulation of members' news feeds. 

If its early growth continues, Ello could come to rival existing services. But does a world with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ really need another social network?

What is Ello?

The clearest statement of what Ello hopes to achieve comes from its own 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."

It continues: "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."

How do you join?

The network is invitation only, but prospective users can request an invitation on the Ello website or ask a friend who has already joined to invite them.

How many people have signed up?

According to BetaBeat, requests to join the site have accelerated swiftly from 4,000 to 27,000 per hour. That's over 600,000 requests per day.

How does it work?

Once you are a member, you get access to a site that the Daily Mirror describes as a hybrid of Tumblr and Facebook. The main news feed is separated into two separate areas: Friends and Noise.

Friends offers a Facebook-like feed of full-sized updates from your favourite people. Noise acts more like Twitter, with updates from organisations and people you know less well in a compressed grid-based layout. 

If you decide that you are no longer keen on what a friend is posting you can move them across to your Noise feed. Practically this means that you have access to everything that is being posted, rather than being fed a curated selection of information by an algorithm, like on Facebook.

Will Ello remain ad-free?

If it is true to its word, Ello will protect its users' data and never accept any advertising. Some commentators have suggested that this will be difficult, particularly after the team behind Ello accepted $435,000 in venture capital. As The Guardian's Ruby Murray notes, such investors "tend to want their money back, big and fast".

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