Ello, a new social networking platform with a anti-advertising/data-mining manifesto and a pro-transparency ethos, is gaining popularity this week, perhaps bolstered by backlash against Facebook's "real name" policy. (Screenshot)
NEW YORK, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- A new social media platform built on an anti-advertising, pro-transparency ethos, is gaining popularity this week.
Ello is an aesthetically stripped down social network, designed by photographer filmmaker, artist, designer toy maker, and bicycle enthusiast Paul Budnitz, with a manifesto that sets it in opposition to the dominant forms of social media.
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. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that's bought and sold.
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.
Ello was announced back in March, rolled out in July, and was originally a private network for the group of artists and creative professionals that collaborated on designing the site.
The pages are sleek and clean and have a retro aesthetic Betabeat referred to as anachronistic.
Followed people can be sorted into two categories: "Friends" or "Noise," the former providing a more linear newsfeed-like experience of updates, the latter resulting in a more Tumblr or Pinterest-esque wall of recent activity.
Of his motivation to keep the site ad-free, Budnitz said: "When a network is run for advertisers, the advertiser is really the customer," Mr. Budnitz said. "That really goes against what a social network is. When you're putting up artwork, or something you wrote or created, and there's an add for underwear, it conflicts in a violating way."
Ello also claims to be committed to keeping user data private.
Virtually every other social network is run by advertisers. Behind the scenes they employ armies of ad salesmen and data miners to record every move you make. Data about you is then auctioned off to advertisers and data brokers. You're the product that's being bought and sold.
Collecting and selling your personal data, reading your posts to your friends, and mapping your social connections for profit is both creepy and unethical. Under the guise of offering a "free" service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy.
"Ello doesn't mine or sell data or have ads, so we invite people to be who they want to be on Ello" Mr. Budnitz said. "There is no reason for us to require people to use real names."
Facebook has faced recent backlash from critics in response to its new "real name" policy that users' profiles must reflect their legal identity, prompting what the Daily Dot called "The Great Gay Facebook Exodus."
"Artists, bloggers, people who are concerned about privacy, people who have had problems with stalkers, celebrities, and members of the LGBTQ community sometimes choose not to use their real names -- out of personal preference, or to protect themselves," Budnitz said. "All these people are being kicked out of Facebook."
Aiming to be the new home for communities alienated by Facebook's policies, Queerly has already said of the site, "now that Ello is being embraced by so many in the queer community, Budnitz is happy to play the role of benevolent gatekeeper to the social network promised land."
Other social networks have popped up over the years only to quickly fall by the wayside of the information superhighway -- Diaspora, ASmallWorld, Bebo, and even Google Buzz all attempted to become the next major social networking platform, but each quickly faded into obscurity.
Whether Ello's street credibility with artists and the tech crowd and its ad-free/anti-dat-mining ethos will set it apart enough to gain the sort of popularity necessary to be competitive and keep it from being another flash in the digital pan remains to be seen.
Ello is free, but as of now, the network is still invite only and requires new users to know someone on the network.