Want to get in shape for Summer? Swamped with debt? Want free shipping on candles?
It’s 6AM, I’ve barely opened my eyes, and I’m already being peppered with questions from the oddly specific Facebook ads that stare back at me from the screen of my computer. Of course, Facebook’s masterfully worked out in a matter of clicks that I’m an out of shape shut-in with a bit of a weird thing for Sandalwood and Vanilla knee deep in debt.
The reality is that, over a matter of days, I’ve Googled beaches for a weekend trip away with friends, help with my tax and 21st ideas for a female friend. But Facebook doesn’t know that. It sells personal data to marketers to produce alarmingly accurate targeted ads that plumb the depths of your internet search history to tell you what you really want. It’s from this uncomfortably self-aware situation that Ello was birthed.
Ello is the latest progenitor of the anti-Facebook movement to be grandiosely slapped with the title of “the Facebook killer”. Its creators boast it as an ad-free utopia that refuses to sell your data or treat you like a product while allowing you to “connect, create, and celebrate life.” While it reads to me like a vaguely life enriching Lorna Jane quote, others are embracing the Ello manifesto with gusto. A lot of other people.
In only three months since its creation, Ello is now being signed up to by 34,000 people per hour and doubling in size every 2-3 days. Only last week the Ello team had to shut down the registration link temporarily because they were struggling to keep up. The internet is quite literally filing in droves to Ello’s front doorstep, begging to get a glimpse of the messiah that will end Facebook’s era of despotism. And it’s easy to understand why.
Clicking on Ello’s minimalistic, so hip it hurts website immediately leads you to the creators manifesto, which boasts in no uncertain terms that Ello will “change the world”. It’s “audacious”, “beautiful” and “simplistic”, and completely invite-only. It’s easy to be swept up in the grandeur of it all – after all, it’s going to change the world, right?
What the internet has conveniently forgotten with its collective memory span of a minute is that many predecessors like Ello have come before, promising equally dazzling prospects – and failed. We’ve ushered in Diaspora, Path and, to a lesser extent, Google Plus (apologies to the ever-faithful believers), and bid them adieu nearly as quickly. Nonetheless, Ello’s capturing the hearts and minds of social media users in snowballing proportions, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
If Ello does manage to defeat Facebook in true David and Goliath style, the implications for marketers are widespread. Datamining is dead, and, if the Ello team stick to their promise, the days of ad-driven social media campaigns are numbered. I’m not nearly as convinced as others seeing as Ello is already cashing a very tidy pay check of $435,000 from venture capitalists already, who will certainly want a return on their investment in time.
In the mean time, I’ll be sitting, waiting and hoping that I suddenly get cool enough to receive an Ello invite to see what all the fuss really is about.
Jack Cornwell is a Research Assistant at BCM