Ello Social Network : Why It Didn’t Beat Facebook


Ello Social Network – Why It Didn’t Beat Facebook

When Ello, yet another social media site was launched in September 2014, it looked like it would be a refreshing break from all the craziness on Facebook.

The Ello Social Network offered a promise to put people first instead of trying to commodify them, or to mine and sell their data to third parties such as governments and advertisers.

In just a few short days after its beta launch, Ello went from an obscure social toy to garnering up to 1 million users who were eager to be invited to join the ‘anti-Facebook’ platform.

However, a couple of months later it was evident that the Ello Social Network might not, after all, live up to its claim to offer a revolutionary alternative to the social media birdies who were sick and tired of the commercialization over at Facebook.

So why was Ello so alive in September and so quiet so soon?

A business model that is naïve

It is commendable that Ello was keen on nurturing the virtues of ‘beauty, simplicity, and transparency’ as is stated on the company’s manifesto. However, the founders might have taken a very naïve approach to setting up a technology company that would serve the diverse, dynamic and sometimes, not too beautiful world of internet users.

The founders of Ello assumed that if people were given an alternative opportunity, they would use social media for constructive purposes. At the heart of Ello’s business model is the fundamentally flawed assumption that users would be willing to give out their hard-earned money to support a social networking site that offers an alternative to the behemoth that Facebook has become.

From the onset, basing their business model on such assumptions was a recipe for failure, more so in a cutthroat niche such as social media technology.

Pay to use a social networking site?

Ello, like most other social networking sites, started with the premise that it did not care about money, just yet. The fact that there are no ads on the platform is refreshing and impressive, a break from all the advertisements on Facebook and Twitter.

However, users are wise. They know very well that at some point, Ello will definitely need money to support its technical and administrative operations.

How will it dello social networko this? I see only two options:

Either sell user data or integrate an advertisement model onto the platform.

Instead of going the advertisement way, Ello opted for the “freemium” model, much like Tumblr, where users pay for additional features alongside their free account. However, people are already using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the ilk for free and there is nothing so compelling about Ello (yet) that would prompt users to pay to enjoy the full benefits of this social networking site.

As Mark Zuckerberg put it in an interview with Time, Ello would neither scale nor be a better alternative to Facebook because “(Facebook’s) mission is to connect every person in the world. You don’t do that by having a service people pay for.”

Hello, there is nothing different here

Although Ello’s design and layout is minimalist (which I really like) and provides for a relatively breezy browsing experience, the platform does not offer anything revolutionary that other social sites are not offering already.

The Ello social network can be commended for its ad-free interface and its emphasis on user privacy, but that seems to be it. The media touted Ello as “the next phase of social media” based on these two features. But Ello underestimated the far-reaching influence of Facebook and the things that make this social site very addictive to users.

Well, Ello did try to add a video and music sharing capability, but this does not appear to be enough to revive what appears to be a failing site.

ello social networkFor Ello, or any other social networking sites to outdo Facebook, they would have to come up with groundbreaking, head-turning features. So, as it stands Facebook will continue to dominate the world from the remote villages of Chandauli in India to Maputo in Zambia.

At its inception, Ello attracted two types of users: those who are fed up with Facebook and those who like to try different social sites. But, none of these users were convinced that Ello offered something far greater than Facebook did and so the number of Ello early adopters left as fast as they came, including myself.

Suffering the Twitter Syndrome

Ello does not claim to be in competition with Twitter or Facebook. But, it does suffer from the same malady as Twitter did at its inception—user retention problems also known as “the Twitter Syndrome”.

A major reason why people are coming to Ello and leaving or not being active there is because none of their friends are on the platform; they are all on Facebook and others on Twitter!

Unlike Ello, Facebook offers a robust platform where users can look up anyone from anywhere in the world, plan events and share moments. This is Facebook’s sticky factor. Ello would need to work much harder to unstick people from the world’s most formidable social networking platform. Whether this is possible, it remains to be seen. It’s certainly going to take a lot of money and a lot of support from somewhere.

What are your views? Did you ever try the Ello Social Network? Are you still on it? Can you see anybody taking Facebook’s social media network throne in the near future? Leave a reply below.


  1. Gary says:

    Have you seen the huge server farms that social media owns (or rents space in). Any social site that want to swim in the same waters as Facebook and their ilk will need comparable capacity. That is an expensive barrier to entry much too large for a typical startup to get over, even if they get popular.


    • Andrew Spence says:

      You are quite right there Gary. They are huge and need to be. It’s definitely a difficult task competing with the few social networks that are dominating. Thanks for commenting!

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