Ello, the new social network that touts a no-advertisement policy recently received $5.5 million in new funding. A change to its corporate structure now has it listed as a “public benefit corporation.” Will these changes be enough for the upstart to take on the world’s heavyweight champion, Facebook?
Probably not, no.
Wait, They Actually Care About User Privacy?
Currently accepting new members via invite only, Ello’s no-advetiser stance is intended to protect user privacy. “What’s ‘user privacy’?” Facebook responded, probably. The service has seen a huge jump in membership requests, particularly from members of the transgender community, since Facebook’s recent, ill-advised, poorly received “real names only” play.
The new social network was birthed in 2013 by a gaggle of Vermontese tech entrepreneurs led by Paul Budnitz. Ello remained fairly quiet and relatively unknown, until, during the height of the backlash against Facebook’s real-name fiasco, it was besieged by a reported 40,000 applicants per hour. As there were likely less than 40,000 people who had even heard of the service before then, this number seems wildly inflated. Whether those numbers are legit or not, the surge of interest in the site launched it into, if not the mainstream, at least somewhere mainstream-adjacent.
“A Benefit to Society As A Whole”?
After their latest round of funding, Ello became a public benefit corporation. According to a statement on Ello’s website, this means the social network is now “a new kind of for-profit in the USA that exists to produce a benefit for society as a whole—not just to make money for its investors.” I’ll believe this BS when I see it.
“Ello doesn’t sell ads,” reads the company’s (*sigh*) manifesto. “Nor do we sell data about you to third parties. 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.” Suggesting, with a straight face, that a GD website can somehow “create life” tells me that maybe these cats missed a few biology classes in their day.
The Ello manifesto (again, *sigh*) continues, “You are not a product.” However, ad-free or no, the fact that the company plans to monetize their service soon, via a (*sigh*, *eye roll*) “freemium” platform suggests otherwise. “You are not a product for anyone but us,” is probably what they meant.