Ello. The Facebook Slayer?

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It was only a matter of time wasn’t it? People have been writing about the imminent decline of Facebook for a few years now. There are several arguments as to why, with some focusing on the fact that it’s too personal (not pseudonym friendly), others unhappy with the massive increase in burdensome ads, and others simply feeling that it’s too “old”. Mark Zuckerberg’s baby still might be the top bookmark on millions of browsers around the world, but the truth is, the cracks have been becoming ever more evident.

All that was left was for a challenger to emerge, as a David to gradually start facing off with the Goliath which is Facebook. But a company still in it’s beta phase? Welcome Ello to the stage.

Who?

I know, I’m late. Ello has been making a lot of noise on the web recently. To get the basics out of the way though, it’s an invitation only (for the moment) beta stage startup looking to add a more free-spirited, human touch to social media.

The creators of Ello, namely Paul Bunditz don’t hide from where they see the company fitting into the market, or the competitive advantages it holds in comparison to its more popular competitor.

Once someone visits the site they’ll find a self-described manifesto explaining the company’s concept. To begin, the network is ad-free, and will not sell user information to third parties. This is of course in direct contrast to Facebook, and its controversial decision to allow ads on the site, along with the manner in which it’s dealt with user data.

In its privacy section, Ello explains that it runs user information on Google Analytics in order to gather necessary personal data, but that should any individual profile holder request it, they can “op-out” of the feature.

The manifesto ends with a telling phrase. “You are not a product”.

Will It Work?

As would be expected regarding any newcomer looking to challenge an established firm, there are going to be naysayers, pointing out potential flaws in the site. Many see its dynamic growth more as a reaction from the masses of disillusioned Facebookers, as opposed to the selection of a genuinely superior service. To put it as Jess Zimmerman does in her recent article in The Guardian:

Ello will not be successful, in the long run. But if it appears successful in these early days, that’s not a referendum on the service itself; it’s a referendum on how disillusioned we are with the options we have right now.

Pardon me for being hopefully optimistic, but I beg to differ. It’s not because I can claim the site is any better than what exists (they still haven’t accepted my invitation), but because it now has the market recognition to appeal to a massive consumer base as a viable alternative. Controversy sells, and when you’re selling to a market of nearly 2 billion people (the number of individuals around the world using some social network) there’s more than enough room to find a place in the market.

Of course, at this point I can’t claim that Ello will ever overtake Facebook. If anything it might serve as a wake up call to that company’s management to start taking some of the legitimate qualms users have with it seriously. However, tech firms, no matter how big they might be, will always be slaves to consumer trends, and fads of a given age.

The same way Myspace was eventually sent into oblivion, if Ello invests in features offering a new edge to the social media experience, combined with its respect for user privacy, there’s no reason to believe that it won’t continue to grow as a viable alternative.

(The image used is the licensed trademark of Ello)

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