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Ello: The Hot New Anti-Facebook Social Network

MySpace came, then went. So did Friendster. Tumblr was cool once, but then Yahoo bought it and it may or may not be still cool. Facebook and Twitter, for now, have staying power.

But Facebook is evil, man. It's like gathering all of your data to push ads down your throat, and it handed so many things over to the government. It's basically big brother, bro, and nobody likes a surveillance state (or private industry -- whatever).

That's what Ello is: a social network without real name requirements, without data mining, and alas, at least so far, without a lot of other things, like granular privacy controls or you know ... people?

Here are some initial impressions about Ello from my fellow blogger Mark Wilson and me, after trying it out last week:

Mark's First Impressions

I first received an invitation to Ello last week. Because I'm not nearly as hip as my prescription skinny jeans suggest, I thought, "This must be spam." So I let the invitation languish until I read about Ello on a news website. OK, it must be legit.

It's not immediately clear what Ello is supposed to be. The monochrome UI elements and monospace font suggest that it's designed to make content important -- but what content? Well, unlike Pinterest or Tumblr, the "content" isn't just images: People post pictures and they also post text. There are definitely 100 percent fewer Buzzfeed quizzes.

Basically, Ello is what it says it is: Facebook without ads. (It also claims to be "porn-friendly," so it's got that going for it, which is nice.) I like the minimalist UI, and it certainly aspires to be more "graphic design-y" than Facebook, but I'm unsure why it exists other than to say, "Facebook's lame, man. Come over here."

Just as the plain-bellied Sneetches began to get stars on their bellies, the star-bellied Sneetches had theirs removed by Sylvester McMonkey McBean, and suddenly not having stars was cool. So it was with MySpace, so it is with Facebook, so it will be with Ello -- and whatever comes later.

Willie's First Impressions

Thanks to Mark, I got in on the Ello party, and my first thought was this:

After listening to that gem six times, I clicked around on the site. Unfortunately, Mark is my only friend, and he's been, so far at least, mute. Fair enough; why scream in an empty room?

The interface is ... minimalist. Which means, most of the buttons are hard to see and pretty. There's a "Friends" feed and a "Noise" feed -- noise is a global curated feed (lots of pretty hipster art), while friends are your friends.

What I love: It's not mining my data.

What I hate: I have no friends, people can "follow" you without your permission like on Twitter, and there is only one privacy control, which blocks your content from the non-Ello world.

It won't replace Facebook any time soon, but it certainly could -- it just needs more users (it has a ton, thanks to recent Facebook controversies), more stability, and more features. As is, we'll keep an eye on the beta version to see if it becomes more than a hipster/graphic designer's paradise.

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