This article was first published in the October edition of  Media Pulse – Omnicom Media Group’s monthly highlights on relevant media insights, intelligence and trends.
 www.omnicommediagroupmediapulse.com

With security issues looming for social media sites, where big data encompasses our lives, there’s a new sheriff in town—Ello. Designed by a small group of designers and artists to function as a private social network, Ello promises big changes for users: an entirely ad free experience, no third parties (data brokers and advertisers), and absolutely zero data mining.

Ello offers “jump shippers”—those intrepid souls who’ve abandoned Twitter and Facebook—a new virtual hangout that’s sleek, accessible and free to users. For a small contribution, users can add certain features and customize their experience, but the site’s founders Paul Budnitz and Todd Berger promise that Ello will never charge, and that it will always allow users the option to permanently delete their account. You heard right, permanent delete, not the social “purgatory” our profiles go through now. Currently available in public beta (i.e., by invitation only), Ello promises to be a market-ready answer to privacy policy concerns (who reads those anyway?). Think Instagram, which was once ad-free but now is overrun with sponsored posts—all of this under the guise of offering a “free service.”

Since it launched its beta, Ello has attracted a substantial group of users and venture capitalist investors (there are reports that at one point, the network was receiving 31,000 requests per hour), but some think the startup’s initial success is unwarranted: Ello’s viral frenzy, they argue, is more a reaction to the failings of other social networking sites than anything else. Perhaps, but Ello does boast some interesting features (or should we say, the absence of those features), on Ello, you can’t “like” a status or search through nested menus, and minimalist black-and-white graphics replace the bold, bright colors of Instagram and Snapchat’s interface. In sort, it’s the antithesis of social media as we know it today. Marketers will always have a need to be a part of these “social” conversations—but can they crack the Ello code? Only time will tell.

Ello—whose manifesto is “you are not a product”—promises it can monetize the new platform through users’ purchase of special features, which themselves may be an organic form of advertisement, much like the success Candy Crush has monetizing, but is it “the better way”? No one’s quite sure if Ello is the way of the future or just a flash in the pan, but one thing’s for certain: the times they are a changin’.