10 Nov Ello, who am I speaking to?
If you live on land in 2014 (i.e. you are not some water logged crustacean that hasn’t been on the interwebs in a while) you have heard of Ello, the new social media site taking the tech world by storm. In the past few months, the tech industry has actually begun to ponder the reality of a world where Facebook will no longer be the dominant social media superpower. If you are a student of history, you know that nothing is static and Facebook, like everything else would once cease to be the dominant social media giant. We just didn’t expect a potential power vacuum so soon.
So what exactly is Ello? Ello’s raison d’état and manifesto is that it doesn’t require a real name or identity to have a profile. But that’s hardly revolutionary. What is unique about it, is that it is moving away from the glamourized and now thoroughly flogged idea of big data to the idea of anonymous data. It is pitching to a smaller but more discerning crowd of social media users who care about things like principled graphic design, who don’t want to be inundated with advertisements of wedding rings and honeymoon vacation packages, because they changed their relationship status, who want to be card carrying members of a small but carefully selected group of like-minded internet personas like themselves. These are tall claims for a social media company that thinks it’s going to unseat Facebok. For those of us who tend to err on the side of sceptical, I question how long this will last. Didn’t Facebook start as a hip, elite club on the internet where university students who couldn’t make the cut in the real, exclusive university societies, clubs, fraternities and sororities could, gather, talk about their lives, their dates and their parties while keeping tabs on the lives of their friends, enemies, frenemies and everyone in between? Wasn’t Facebook’s whole shtick that they shied away from advertising and respected the privacy of their users? So what makes Ello so different? Let me tell you what the company claims it is.
For one, it is invite only, so the chances of you seeing your mom’s cousin’s best friend on it are slimmer. Secondly, Ello promises, not to treat it’s users like a product, which means they will not sell your data and information to marketers, researchers, advertisers or anyone else. This isn’t to say your data will not be valuable, or even that there won’t be a monetary value to your data. It will simply be anonymized. Lastly, Ello is, much like Facebook, a brain child of social power and venture capital that has grown out of the sociability of students. Out of a hedonistic desire to be different while being part of an exclusive club of like-minded individuals. The question remains, how different will their fates be? You decide.