We profiled Ello in March, and the social networking startup has seen an explosion of activity in the last few weeks. As with the beginning of any social network, there’s a lot of starry-eyed hype, and there are some legitimate questions starting to emerge. The biggest question: Is Ello a flash in the pan, or will it develop into something to rival the big networks?
The excitement around Ello is caused by a number of things, such as their ‘be you, or a version of you’ stance on identity, and the ‘You are not a product’ mantra. Users are enamored with these promises and others like Ello’s promise that their data will not be exploited for profit.
If Ello and its users are interested in it remaining ad-free, then Ello has cut off a potential source of revenue. Another potential source of revenue is venture capital funding, but there are users who think that by accepting VC funding, Ello is reneging on its promises before it even gets off the ground.
Other potential models left for revenue are freemium, or subscription. Whatsapp has proven that a subscription model can be effective, and the Ello about page notes that users may be able to “buy a feature now and then for a very small amount of money” and by doing so “you support our work and help us make Ello better and better.”
A large part of the current surge in Ello users could also be a result of an apparent exodus of LGBTQ users upset over Facebook’s real names policy. But it’s difficult to say if the trend will sustain as Ello attempts to get up and running. Plenty of things over the years have been deemed Facebook killers, and Facebook still exists as the largest social network in the world.
If Ello is able to deliver on its promises and stick to its core values, it could certainly win its fair share of users. But it’s unlikely that any service, regardless of hype, is big enough to topple the behemoth that is Facebook.