You can't--or rather, shouldn't--launch a social network without an app in our smartphone-centric world, yet Ello has done it. Why? I'm not sure. Its mobile site looks decent on an iPhone screen, but that's because the site overall is so basic that there's not a lot to mess up. Ello says it's working on iOS and Android apps, but at this point, apps shouldn't be an afterthought--they should launch with or before a website.
Facebook was ad-free for years. Tumblr's founder hated the idea of ads. But sooner or later, every free network embraces advertising. How else are you going to make money? Ello has a vague plan to offer premium features that are worth paying for, and presumably that money will be enough to sustain the site. Others argue there's no way a freemium model can support a social network at scale. Ello is currently funded by venture capital, which doesn't come cheap. Investors will want a return. How will Ello make money without selling your data? That part, arguably the foundation of the entire network, is still fuzzy. Brands have already joined Ello, with Netflix encouraging its Ello followers to like the company on Facebook, thereby missing the entire point.
Plenty of sites lack ads. Many networks let you use pseudonyms instead of real names. So how is Ello different? Facebook has your entire life. Twitter is your news source. Tumblr is your creative outlet. Instagram is your photo studio. Pinterest is your inspirational scrapbook. Each has something that differentiates it from the rest. I'm curious what Ello will do to make itself an essential part of your day. So far, I'm not seeing it.
Ello is still in beta, so by the time it launches publicly, the network could incorporate all of these changes. But Ello is already so public, those invites so easy to get, that its days of quiet tinkering are over. This is the big time.
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