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What we can learn from the rise and fall of Ello

by Gregory Gillette on 09 October 2014

Hey look! Someone who works in social media with an opinion on Ello!

That’s right, and in the next few paragraphs I’m going to very subjectively go over why the internet got really excited about Ello, why it turned out to be but a summer tryst, and what brands can learn from it in the future.



Why did people like Ello?

We liked Ello because we don’t like Facebook. Everyone doesn’t like Facebook. Brands don’t like Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg is probably even tired of Facebook.  We rely on Facebook to store pictures and messages we haven’t backed up, to help us form opinions on individuals we barely know, and to create a narrative that makes our messy lives seem both manageable and meaningful.

What went wrong?

Ello promised to be something else. They even wrote it in a manifesto, which implied some sort of revolution was nigh. Unfortunately very few manifestos are implemented, and even fewer are implemented well.

The scrappy new network purported to be able to sustain itself indefinitely on a freemium model – where a few needy users pay for perks and special treatment while the majority get general access for free. This model is not unlike how most democracies function and Ello claimed, as democratic governments do, that it would bow to the will of its people, not offering advertising or flogging personal data to companies.

Yet we already seem to be  as disengaged from Ello as we are from democracy. After it emerged that Ello had been less-than-forthcoming about its venture capital funding, it lost a lot of the anti-corporate artistic-type core audience that was at the centre of the unlikely Facebook exodus.Its cultural relevance on Twitter burned brightly but briefly, as the graph shows.



Add to this the fact that from day one Ello set out to be on the side of companies and trademarks over individuals, and its moment as the internet`s darling was finished completely. People were even sick of the design.

What will happen to Ello?

Like many social networks, Ello will probably have a long route to death with a hyper-niche audience. But who?

Ello tried to go after artists, but any self-respecting artist online is on DeviantArt. Anti-traditional network types? They’re on Reddit. People who like everything about Facebook except the fact that it’s Facebook? Those people work for Google and are on Google+.

The way it’s built, there isn’t much room for Ello – there’s no market to share. In the end there might be a few Silicon Valley types talking about their Wednesday night pottery class, but even they will eventually get over themselves and form a meetup.com group.

 What next for networking?

What there is a market for however, is what people thought Ello might be.

People on the internet love Tor, creative commons and open source. They also love anonymity, freedom, piracy, innovative governance models, egalitarianism, and all sorts of contradictory ideals. For an internet second, Ello allowed people to believe that regular networks, like those of Facebook and LinkedIn, might be able to merge with the beloved social and political harmony of the deeper internet, in an environment that let people decide how much their personal data was worth.

Ello was the wrong place to look for a Facebook killer, but its failure helps show where there may be one in the future. It reminds us that people-first democratic ideology runs deep online – but also that it will take serious commitment for a brand to convince us that it might become a reality.

Then? Oh, watch us run.


Facebook lets mobile users control when videos play automatically

Facebook users who access the social network via mobile devices now have choices when it comes to auto-play videos. A new message can be found at the top of many newsfeeds titled “Control When Videos Play Automatically” that reads: “You can change your settings so that videos only play automatically when you’re using Wi-Fi.…


Social media's love affair with the swipe

by Annabel Sampson on 02 October 2014

If you’re a user of social mobile apps (and who isn’t), you’ll be well aware that the swipe is emerging as the next like – sibling to our other ugly social verbs the poke and the favourite.

Executed in less than a second, our beloved new one-handed digital gesture leaves a flurry of digital footprints in its wake.…


Stay aHead: Steller

by Roberto Estreitinho on 30 September 2014

One of the things I like the most about working in social media is how we can make things shine with relatively few clicks and taps, spiced up by a bit of imagination. Sure, some things take a LOT of work to be done right, but it’s amazing how apps and platforms keep giving us more tools to make complex things in an increasingly simple way.…


The week in social: Twitter polling, Selfielapse, and Sobo

by Nicole Gronland on 28 September 2014

Google drops mandatory Google+ accounts for new users

Google is no longer forcing new Gmail users to connect their account to a Google+ profile. Now when someone signs up for a Gmail account, Google has inserted a ‘no thanks’ button for those not wishing to take the plunge with Google+, although the search giant claims it remains committed to the Facebook rival.…


Is Bebo really back from the social media grave?

by Hermione Wright on 24 September 2014

Remember Bebo? Back in the olden days of social media, Bebo was huge – we’re talking 2005 to 2008, when people actually used to eat dinner before immediately uploading a pic onto Instagram. In fact, the social network rapidly grew to more than 40million members.…


The week in social: Bebo, Facebook Media, and Moments

by Nicole Gronland on 21 September 2014

YouTube stars heading to Facebook?

Facebook is looking to take on YouTube as a distribution network for online video, and has reportedly been courting some of YouTube’s top contributors and testing uploads of some of their shows directly to Facebook. Facebook is reported to have hired staff in Los Angeles to engage the YouTube stars, and are also reported to be working on new advertising units to compete with the revenues they would receive from YouTube.…


Dubai is the new frontier for word of mouth

by Matthew Rowe on 19 September 2014

You’ve probably heard about Joseph O’Neill’s ‘The Dog’, “a tale of alienation and heartbreak in Dubai”, that was long-listed for this year’s Booker Prize.

You’re less likely to have heard (unless you read my last post) about my recent move to Dubai to open 1000heads’ MEA HQ.…


Inspiration: Top 5 bold exchanges from the latest APG Noisy Thinking

by Roberto Estreitinho on 18 September 2014

Last Tuesday I attended my very first APG Noisy Thinking event, hosted at the Google HQ here in London. As the world moves in an increasingly fast pace, the event was all around sustainable brand building, and to share some thoughts around that the APG invited Mark Given (Head of Brand at Sainsbury’s), Alex Dunsdon (Investment Director at Saatchi Invest and founder of The Bakery) and David Wilding (Head of Planning at Twitter UK).…