Ello, a social network founded in March 2014, has registered itself as a public benefit corporation that aims to rival Facebook.
The site gained viral success in September most likely as a result of Facebook’s new policy to ban fake names on the site, reports Alex Hern for The Guardian.
The other selling points of Ello are the fact that is will not display ads and it will not sell user information — something that may make it more attractive to teachers and schools.
“Ello’s explosive growth over the past few months proves that there is a hunger to connect with friends and see beautiful things – without being manipulated by ad salesmen, boosted posts, and computer algorithms that don’t always have our best interests at heart,” the company states in its manifesto. “On an ad-driven social network, the advertiser is the customer and you’re the product that’s bought and sold.”
Ello’s decision to register as a PBC will legally hold the company to its promise. It also prevents the company from selling to anyone who would allow those things.
The move was done in response to speculation that the company would not be able to stand by the promise if they were offered a lucrative deal, reports Jacob Kastrenakes from The Verge.
The company earns its profit through investment dollars. It began with a small investment of $450,000, but just recently lined up $5.5 million in venture funding from Bullet Time Ventures, Foundry Group and Fresh Tracks Capital, reports Robert McMillan for Wired.
The investments are necessary for the growth of Ello. It started with a mere 90 users and it has grown to host over a million, with 3 million on the waiting list. They need further financial growth in ensure the site wont go down, writes Micheal J. De La Merced for The New York Times.
Ello also plans to make money from offering premium services added to their free network. They plan to model it like the Apple’s App Store.
In an interview, Budnitz gets more specific. “On the iPhone, everyone wants to add an app and customize it for themselves,” he says. “That’s how Ello will work. It’s meant to be very simple, but people will be able to buy small features for $1 or $2 and change theirs.” There will be a store on Ello’s site with a menu of add-ons.
Aside from its moral commitments Ello differs from other social media websites due to its focus on creativity, but because of this the site isn’t for everyone, reports Daniel Roberts for Fortune.
The network is invite only and once you are a user you only get 5 invitations.
Many of Ello’s features are aimed for the tech savvy. They aren’t easy to navigate and are somewhat hidden. Ello is simplifying some of its features for more accessibility, but its purpose is still to remain a site for creative types that can easily display images and allow for vast customization.