Last week I received an invite to join Ello (thanks Lee) and jumped into this new network that everyone was talking about. I really do appreciate the non-commercial heart behind this project, I really do. That may seem counterintuitive to hear coming from a person who markets brands online. Making a sacred space to only share non-commercial things or have a website that is completely ad free (well, this one is too...where's my Fast Company article?!) is a space that is apparently attractive to a lot of people. But this isn't the first time we've tried our hand at a brand-free social network.
A few years ago, Path was the new golden child of social media. It was private and limited to <150 of your online friends. The app was life-streamy at first, only allowing you to share photos, thoughts, or what you were listening to at the time (until eventually they put in some features like Nike+ integration and stickers). It was an app void of spammy links Path also had two huge things in its corner that Ello does not:
Beautiful design and a mobile presence.
Path was mobile exclusive. It was well-designed. It had everyone talking. Now I hardly know anyone still using it.
Ello Could Be Different
This recent research from RJ Metrics proves that Ello could be more than flash in the pan. It's stickiness is outperforming recently buzzed app Jelly and is on par with Twitter's new user engagement.
Despite these metrics, I'm still lukewarm on Ello.
What It Is: A Way of Sticking It to the Man
Ello's mission statement is to be ad-free. While they can't totally police that, I could definitely see a self-policing effort from users like you see with Reddit and spammy links. Design and UX isn't what makes them different. It's their public commitment to be the anti-marketing social network. With all of the data collection and tracking being done with technology like Facebook's Atlas, the market for an ad-free space isn't niche. There's definitely a demand.
Ello won't survive on vapors and investors for long. They'll have to find a way to monetize. Could they be a social network that requires a membership fee? Maybe. But they won't be able to compromise on their ad-free mission to keep their audience. This focus is THE thing that differentiates them from other ways to spend time online.
Staying true to their mission will make or break them in the long haul.
What It Is Not: A Shining Example of Great UX
Sure, the design is incredibly simple. Not having ads will help in that capacity. However, I didn't find the experience to be uber intuitive.
Signing up wasn't completely straightforward once I received an invite code. I know myself and another lead social marketer had a hard time getting into it. It's not very clear on how to do what once you are in there. It's almost too minimal.
Comment threads are interesting too. You really have to open up the individual thread to read comments. I appreciate the effort to de-clutter the page ( I get it) but it's not super intuitive to use. I guess other sites have us too trained on what we should "expect" to see on a social network. But that may be what makes Ello different (and maybe lead to their success).
What Matters At the End of the Day: Not My Opinion
Until there's a strong mobile component, I don't see myself getting too personally invested in Ello. I may give it a solid try for a week and really invest some time to get to know it. After all, I use to have the same lukewarm feelings about Pinterest (and we saw what happened there). So maybe I'll come around. I'm just not sure it has the stickiness.
I feel like Ello will be very popular for a niche market but may not have the mass utility appeal that Facebook or Twitter do. The "invite-only" angle is what drives much of its appeal at the moment. People want an invite to feel like they're "in" (I'll admit to being one of those people).
But Ello doesn't need my blessing to succeed. They really could be onto something.
What Does Matter: Your Opinion
Who else is on Ello? Any initial thoughts so far?