Ello, the widely publicized “anti-Facebook” social network has launched. Now what? While there was a surge of media attention about what a big event Ello’s launch was, and how the start-up managed to secure a good amount of funding, the hype train already seems to have slowed down considerably. Let’s be honest, Ello did not reinvent the wheel here.

Main Features of Ello

If you aren’t a member of Ello, you may be wondering what it’s all about and how it differs from other social networks. The main distinguishing characteristic of Ello is that it does not accept advertising. This sets it apart from its competitors and is appealing to people who are tired of what they see as the commercialism of networks like Facebook. Ello also promises not to share personal data with other sites, which really goes hand in hand with the absence of advertising. If they aren’t working with advertisers, who are they going to share data with?

So far, we have talked about what Ello is not. This actually seems to be what most stories about the new social network are focusing on. What, however, are some of the things that you can do and see on Ello?

  • Friends -You can have friends on Ello, which is one feature it has in common with Facebook. On the other hand, you don’t send a friend request as you would on Facebook. On Ello, you can decide to befriend someone without them doing anything. In this way, it’s more like following someone on Twitter.
  • Omnibar -This is the name of the bar that you use on Ello to post content. It can also be used to mention other people, the way you might mention another user on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Heart Button -Rather than a like button, Ello has a Love button with a heart icon. This is how you express your appreciation for something someone has posted.

When Ello was first introduced, many people were skeptical if they would remain true to their promise not to take ads. As it turns out, they have backed themselves into a corner in this regard by turning Ello into a Public Benefits Corporation. They are now not permitted to take advertising. This will ensure that they stay true to their principles, but it also means that they will not have another way to fund themselves if they run out of money. Ello did have some promising early results. It secured $5 million in funding and attracted over 100,000 members in its first few weeks of existence. The future, however, is still very uncertain. Ello faces some real challenges.

The Big Challenge Faced by Ello

The biggest hurdle Ello will have to overcome is weening people from Facebook. People need to realize that there is more than one place to take duck faced pictured with huge Oakley sunglasses. Since Ello has set itself up as a challenger to the social media giant, it now has to find a way to not only attract lots of new members but to keep them interested and active.

Early results, however, suggest that many people who join Ello don’t actually post. According to one sample, 36% of Ello members have never posted even once. Why would this be the case? It’s one thing to join a new social site. It’s free and there’s a certain amount of excitement in being part of something brand new.

Facebook is so huge and dominant that, despite people complaining about it, almost everyone who is active online still uses it. While people who resent some of Facebook’s policies might, in theory, welcome a challenger like Ello, will they actually spend time on the new site when all of their friends are still on Facebook?

Is The World Ready For an Anti-Facebook?

There is also the question of whether there is truly a strong demand for a non-commercial social site. While many people like this notion in theory, the fact is that commerce largely drives the web. This doesn’t only refer to large companies, but also to the millions of small businesses, affiliate marketers and online stores that rely on the internet for income.

Facebook has become a large industry in itself, giving people the ability to track traffic, place highly targeted ads and perform SEO competitive analysis. The idea of a completely ad-free network is appealing in many ways, but is it practical?

Building momentum will be extremely difficult for a new social site considering what a behemoth Facebook has become. While it’s impressive that Ello’s membership already measures in the hundreds of thousands, Facebook has well over a billion members. Ello has a long way to go before it’s anti-Facebook status has any real meaning.

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