No, People Are Not Leaving Facebook In Droves For Ello

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Ello is not the second-coming of Facebook and Facebook users are not leaving the social network giant in droves. How do I know this? Those with a shiny new Ello profile are posting about it on Facebook.

Despite the promise of an ad free network and the chance to name yourself whatever you want, people don’t up and leave a network that works for them without some big incentive. Bragging that you got an invite isn’t enough.

The drag community may have some incentive to leave at this point. Facebook still refuses to let queens keep their chosen stage names and has given them a grace period to change their profile pages to their birth names or face profile deletion. But despite other reports that say the LGBT community is somehow leading the charge behind the sudden rise in Ello’s popularity, this simply isn’t true. None of the drag queens I spoke to mentioned they’d be jumping ship. “I think people are using both. As awful as Facebook is, it’s still really hard to quit it,” says popular SF drag queen, Heklina. Another Facebook user posted about his hesitation to leave Facebook as well, saying he was considering it, but that Facebook is where all his friends and family are.

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Ello is definitely having a moment. It’s now reportedly receiving 40,000 invite requests an hour.

Despite this moment, and even with the growth, the site doesn’t currently have the built-in stickiness that other sites have to keep a community coming back. Sure, it’s in beta and as such people shouldn’t expect the site to be perfect, but with that much growth and an endless amount of invites, the site is pretty open for saying it’s in beta. It’s tragic that it’s growing so fast, actually. The features list actually looks pretty cool. However, most of it isn’t built or doesn’t work well.

The search feature should be Ello’s highest priority, especially with this kind of growth. Ello’s UI is pretty janky and makes this feature hard to find. The search option doesn’t work and the site just offers you a bunch of people to follow without any context on why you should follow them. You can’t find your friends, even with their Ello name. Head on over to the Noise section and you’ll get all manner of pictures – including porn. A few dick pics mixed in with some selfies and a cute koala last I looked. There’s currently no way to filter this section or block unwanted pictures.

There’s also a glaring privacy problem that could leave the drag community and others vulnerable to internet bullies as well. Drag queen Creatrix Tiara points on her Tumblr page out that the site, “..does not have any sort of features to block or report individuals, nor any way to consent to being followed.” She says this actually leaves her more vulnerable to abuse, not less.

There’s also the possibility of impersonation. A Mark Zuckerberg impostor nabbed the Facebook CEO’s profile name and started posting as if it were him. Ello specifically lists “impersonating others” as abusive behavior yet failed to catch this profile and take it down. There’s currently no other way to report this kind of abuse without sending a message to a generic email address listed on the site.

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Ello’s own privacy policy warns users that anything they post can be found via search:

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There’s also the question of how Ello actually plans to make any money without selling ads. Investors will want to know how the site plans to monetize. Ello claims that it plans to offer a freemium model but offer some paid features. Will it sell ads later on down the road? Perhaps. Or perhaps it will sell your data instead. Ello tells us we are the product being bought and sold on other social networks. However, the site’s privacy policy couches the hint of a future sales feature within a warning that it will sell individual information to third parties.

We may share your personal information with third parties under several circumstances, including (1) if you tell us it is OK to do so (2) if we believe that we need to do so by law (3) if we contract with a third party service provider to offer services for you — for example, with a credit card processing company if you decide to buy something through Ello.

Security and stability are questionable in this nascent stage as well. Ello has already suffered its first DDoS attack this weekend. That seems to have stopped after site creators were able to block the IP addresses responsible.

Perhaps the creators didn’t mean for the growth to happen this fast and everything will be fixed before it’s “public” launch, but it looks like just another social network that doesn’t have everything Facebook has to offer plus some serious holes for now. Companies have one moment to get things right. Growing this fast with only maybe one-tenth of the all the features actually working could turn people off. Who wants to go back for more when the thing doesn’t work?