Reducing our social networks
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
Social networks are a part of our everyday lives. The majority of the population uses Facebook daily, and most of us use Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, or another social media platform to view photos and news, communicate with others, and organize meetings and events.
However one feels about or uses social media, Facebook is likely here to stay, as are all the other popular social networks.
A recent social network based out of Silicon Valley called Ello started gaining popularity in the last few weeks. Many claimed it to be a Facebook replacement, although the website is currently in an invite-only beta testing. It follows a minimalist design and has several key policies that many users may find attractive. They promise never to sell user data, have a rule about using real names, and will never show advertisements, which are some of Facebook’s most common criticisms.
I quietly joined Ello this week after asking around for an invite—something I already found troubling—to see what the hype was about. Why is a social network that promotes user freedom under a model of exclusivity to start? Using the site for 10 minutes, I found their minimalist approach to be off-putting and bland. Where was the content? Most people I knew weren’t on the site, and all there was to do was read postings. It was like a weird rip-off hybrid of Google+ and Twitter.
Behind the scenes, Ello has some funding models that may trouble some users. Due to their ad-free nature, they plan to operate on a “freemium” model, offering certain features of the site for a price. Perhaps more questionable is Ello’s start-up funds from a venture capitalist firm, something not disclosed to the users anywhere on the site. This type of funding means profit is the goal, an interesting component for a site that claims to always remain ad-free. Although Ello is still in the very early stages, their future as an ad-free easy-to-use network that values anonymity may not pan out.
Ello offers nothing that isn’t already covered by several other networks. Their biggest attraction is not having to use your real name—just like on Twitter. Understandably, using a real identity on social networks is a safety issue for some, but that’s a matter of personal privacy. Currently, any Ello account can “friend” (offer full-size content) a user or “noise” (compressed browsing layout) another. There’s not even an option to block users, an important issue regarding safety and harassment.
Ello delivers little of what it suggests, and its business model doesn’t bode well in the longterm. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it gets purchased by a major social network in the next five years. The big networks, like Facebook and Twitter, are free, contain a lot of content, and aren’t going anywhere. Perhaps the solution is to use fewer social networks, put down our phones, and communicate using the real world.