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Will Taking the Moral High Ground Make Ello the New Facebook?

In the wake of controversy over Facebook’s real-name policy emerged the noble, altruistic social network, Ello. The artists and designers who created Ello rode in like hipster- knights in shining armor and declared their valiant manifesto; that those wanting to maintain their identities of choice and who don't want their social activity to be bought and sold for the almighty advertising dollar need look no further.

Ello’s invite-only platform became impossible to infiltrate overnight. It felt like a party at a hip Brooklyn art gallery where the guest list is kept secret. Motivated by equal parts FOMO and a mildly narcissistic desire to stay ahead of the latest trends, I began a frenzied search for an invite. Not-so-ironically, my bicycle-riding, beanie-wearing, graphic designer friend gave me the in. But after 10 minutes of wide-eyed perusal of the stark site, I was at a loss for what to do next. And to be honest, I haven’t been back.

Herein lays the dilemma: Ello just doesn’t give users a better alternative to what they already have. And while the moral high ground that Ello stands on is admirable, I have little confidence that Ello’s call to action will result in revolutionizing the ad-clogged social networks that we live on today.

Ello homepage

From first glance, the minimalist layout is beautiful, a welcome respite from the constant information that bombards us every day.

ello 2

But a further look shows that Ello is simplistic to a fault. Facebook is a bustling scrum, its virtual boulevards crowded with content and conversation. Ello is more like a gallery, austere and empty and a little bit chilly. There are things to look at, but if there are discussions taking place they're happening in hushed tones in remote corners.

And what use is a social network if you can’t socialize on it? Among a slew of other missing parts, there currently is no mobile app, no commenting capabilities and no private messaging, which begs the question—what can I do? Ello promises an extensive list of features is coming soon, but I’m afraid that it’s already too late.

Ello coming soon 3

If Ello had been a more complete product at the time of the Facebook fiasco, people may have stuck around for the minor bugs to be fixed and additions to be incorporated. But with the flames of the Facebook fire put out and Ello’s 15 minutes of fame in the past, the incomplete site has already seen a significant decrease in user interest.

Buzzfeed recently released an entertaining video that addresses the seemingly endless problems with Ello’s hollow website.

Although heroic in their message, Ello cannot survive on integrity alone. At its core, a social networking site needs to provide users with an easy, dynamic and multi-faceted avenue for conversation, which Ello simply doesn’t do. So for now, we await the next audacious knight to provide us with a pure, transparent and ad-free place for connecting.