Could Ello be the next Facebook rival?

The new, ad-free social network’s beta launch has received much attention; does it live up to its hype?

Tired of being shown all those spammy ads on Facebook when you’re trying to figure out what your friends’ kids are up to? Do you wish there were a social platform that didn’t treat you like a piece of metadata? You’re not alone.

Ello has been getting considerable attention recently, and we can almost guarantee your parents won’t use it. The service is opening to new members by invitation only. Invites for the service have been sold on eBay for up to $500, according to several reports.

The service describes itself as “a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers.” The group is headquartered in Vermont, and is led by Paul Budnitz.

The group can credit the Ello manifesto, found here, for driving its virality:

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.

You are not a product.

Powerful stuff.

Coverage in Business Insider, Mashable and the New Yorker (among many other mainstream outlets) has helped fuel the conversation.

While the company has its eyes set on making money, Budnitz told Mashable, “It doesn’t have to be a $30 billion company.” They plan to do this by offering extra features on the site that can be purchased for a nominal fee.

Before you start sounding the Facebook death knell, the New Yorker writer actually used the service and was less than impressed.

From there, things became confusing. The search function didn’t seem to work (to track down my friends, I went back to Facebook, where people had posted screen names that could be typed into the address bar of a browser—ello.co/[screen name]—to find their profiles). When I tried to post something, by typing and pressing “Enter,” like I would on Facebook, nothing happened. It turned out that I had to click a little gray arrow to post. I wasn’t the only one having trouble figuring Ello out; Josh Constine, a blogger at TechCrunch, tweeted, “Dear #Ello, without search or any find friends feature, I can’t follow anyone, so there’s no reason to come back. Fix this first or die.”

That writer also noted that “it lacks robust privacy features.”

Still, could an ad-free social networking site mean digital utopia? (Image via)

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