Ello!

A new network hit the social Web this summer and is basking in the glow of viral love and attention, even though it's still just in private beta.

Don't call it a competitor to Facebook, though. Ello founders have positioned it as the anti-Facebook, with policies and an ad-free interface designed to free users from everything they claim to hate about the world's most popular social network.

Ello was created by a group of seven artists and designers to offer a social networking experience with greater privacy. The site is invitation-only while it's in beta, but it is adding about 35,000 new users an hour.

Are you ready to give Ello a try? Here's what you need to know:

1. Beta = Buggy

Yes, Ello is pretty buggy, but these are the early days. It takes time to build features into a network, and those features aren't always perfect right out of the gate.

If you're looking for a (relatively) seamless, bug-free experience, Ello will probably be a bit frustrating for you. Wait it out or be patient! Facebook wasn't built in a day.

2. No, there's no Like button

I always find it entertaining when the internet masses want an alternative to a service, and then expect the alternative to function exactly the same way.

No, Ello doesn't have a Like button. However, it has a Love button on its list of features to come. The Love button will appear as a small heart beneath a user's post and you will be able to use it to bookmark the post for later.

3. What in the heck is an Omnibar?

I'm glad you asked! It's actually a pretty important feature in Ello-it's the bar you use to post content and @mention other people.

Omnibar appears as a black bar at the top of your stream and, when the feature is added, will be used for private messaging, as well. (Mentions use the @ sign in the same way as Twitter, and private messages will double it-@@username).

You can type text into Omnibar, use it to upload an image (including GIFs), create links by highlighting the text, and more. Soon you'll be able to add audio and video files.

4. Privacy is a priority for Ello-or just a brilliant PR stunt

I know, I know, social networks are always saying they care about your privacy, but they're actually tracking you to the nth degree. The amount of data Facebook keeps on users is actually pretty alarming, if you stop to think about it (but most of us don't).

Ello claims to be serious about privacy, so much that it has new users agree to its anti-tracking and anti-advertising manifesto. If you disagree, it cleverly sends you right back to Facebook, where you belong.

Ello uses Google Analytics to track and anonymize user activity, but unlike pretty much every other social network out there, you can opt out and keep your activities to yourself.

However, if you take a close look at Ello's full privacy policies, you'll notice that Ello doesn't rule out the possibility of accepting advertisers in the future, stating: "We may share your personal information with third parties ... 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."

5. Friends on Ello are more like Follows on Twitter

Ello gives users two ways to filter their news feed: by Friends and by Noise. You mark each new person you're following as either a Friend or Noise, and can then segment your news feed to see each group.

This isn't like Facebook, though, where you have to send a Friend request-it's more like a Follow on Twitter. When you categorize someone as a Friend, the person can see that you're following, but it's not a mutual friendship. The person would have to label you a Friend to add your content to his or her news feed.

If you mark someone as Noise, you can see the person's activity in your Noise stream, but the person isn't alerted that you're following.

I've been messing around in Ello and am enjoying it more every day, as it catches on and more users join. No, it's not going to be the next Facebook-and it's probably not even going to be an alternative to Facebook, if you're really in love with the more established network's features.

As the anti-Facebook, though, I'd say Ello is off to a great start.

Published on: Oct 6, 2014
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