In the past week you may have heard people start to talk about something called Ello. Though it sounds like a cockney-accented greeting, it's actually a new social network with one major selling point: It doesn't have any ads.
Ello is setting itself up to be the anti-Facebook, and apparently people are flooding it—it's at least getting a lot of buzz. It's certainly not the first alternative social network, and while it could just be a fleeting trend, it's getting a buttload of attention. So what's all the fuss over?
Ello was created by a group of artists and designers and is currently in beta status and invite-only. It's a clean, hipstery, black and white interface that shows your friend list on the left-hand side with little circular avatars and your feed on the right-hand side with what your friends are posting. This is what my feed looks like:
You can organise your pals into two lists: friends and noise. That's somewhat of a riff off Google+'s Circles, but much simpler. Your feed is fluid. You navigate by scrolling down, kind of like Twitter on the web without the character limit or promoted messages clogging up your pipeline.
You can post short messages, add photos, and @ reply your fellow Ello-ers. You can add links and whatnot, but no embeds (yet, presumably), however Ello does boast in-line emoji integration. *Fist bump emoji.* This is what a friend's profile looks like. See how you can add them to either friends or noise?
Above your friends list, you see a button for adding/discovering friends, one for sending invites, another for settings, and a hamburger menu that hides your friends list and shows just your feed. Here's the discovery page:
For the record, search seems to be not working like it's supposed to. I had to type my friends' usernames into the URL manually (ello.co/username) to find them. Anyhoo, profile looks not unlike a very pared down Twitter profile, with a big banner pic up top, your avatar below with your user name, posts, and followers, and your friends' avatars on the left. Beyond that, there really isn't much to explain, because if you've tooled around with Twitter or Facebook you can figure this out easily. The emphasis is really on design and simplicity.
Ello also is, of course, about maintaining an ad desert. Nothing will appear on the site offering you weight loss supplements or a new credit card with no fee. So how does Ello keep the lights on? In the about section titled WTF, Ello's people explain that soon they'll be offering "special features" that people can pay for if they'd like to add them to their account.
So think of it as a freemium social network. But Ello also emphasises that unlike social networks that started ad-free and eventually become ad-full, they will never, ever serve up ads.
The verdict is still out as to Ello's merits as a social network you'd actually want to use—I just joined this morning and have only played around on it a little bit. Moreover, all my Ello friends are my fellow Gizmodo staffers. Therein lies one of the hurdles in launching a successful new social network: all billion of your friends are on Facebook.