Lately, there has been a buzz around new social networks and mailing platforms that promise their users privacy protection and no ads.
One of these social network platforms in particular seems to have stirred quite an interest. There have been articles all over the media about it, as it seems to resolve issues not previously tackled by Facebook and its contemporaries. This new platform called Ello claims to offer users everything they want (privacy, no ads, the use of any preferred name, simplicity, etc) and is creating a buzz and fuelling a lot of speculation and rumour despite still being in beta testing.
Ello claims to receive tens of thousands of invitation requests per hour.
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But why are people so keen to join Ello?
Ello (“simple, beautiful & ad-free”) comes at a time when:
- Users (especially in Europe) are frustrated with big companies (like Facebook and Google) for growing so large that they leave little space for other players,
- Data privacy has become a big issue over the last few years,
- People want to avoid being shown ads wherever they click,
- Facebook’s “real” name policy (which dictates that people must use their actual name) has brought protests from groups demanding to change this rule.
If we were to look at the above, then Ello has covered it all:
- They say they will never sell or collect users’ data,
- They considers ads “tacky”, “they insult our intelligence” and “we’re better off without them”,
- Users can choose any name they wish (no “real name” policy),
- Is available in most countries around the world (even in China), however the platform is only in English.
Ello definitely ticks the right boxes offering privacy to people worried about data security, no ads, the freedom to choose whatever name they want, etc.
Where are these users coming from?
Among those most keen to join the network are the Germans and the Japanese – though of course we can’t say for sure because demographic information is not passed on. These two nations are credibly believed to be among the most avid early adopters because they have made themselves seen and heard and are behind a large proportion of feature requests. German users, for example, frequently request a “like” functionality but have adopted the bread “emoji” instead – something that has spread to other European users too. And Japanese users have requested a black screen with white font to reduce eye strain. So usage seems to be taking off for Ello.
It could be a coincidence that German and Japanese have made themselves seen, but is it?
Let’s take Germany for example.
Just a quick search in Google’s Keyword Planner for “datenschutz” and “online-datenschutz” shows this nation’s interested in this topic. We got more than 700 relevant combinations with a total of almost 100,000 monthly searches.
And they are not just showing their interest but also taking action. Besides Ello subscriptions, it is worth mentioning that there are a lot Germans who prefer to pay for a mailing service which offers them complete privacy and no advertising. Posteo is one such provider, registering more than 70,000 users in August 2014. Currently the users pay a yearly subscription of at least €12 per year.
Online privacy has never been more important
Increases in European countries taking Google to court on privacy matters in recent months have also focused everybody’s attention on the issue and perhaps explains some of Ello’s apparent popularity.
In May this year, Mario Costeja González’s lawsuit against Google Spain triggered the so called “right to be forgotten”. According to the outcome of this, Google must remove certain results from their search results on demand but only if they are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” and unless there is a “preponderant” public interest. Each individual/organisation who wants a certain search result to be removed must fill in a request form.
Since May, Google has received 146,938 requests, according to their latest Transparency Report.
Here is how these are distributed by country:
However, the facts become even more interesting – and help to explain why Germans and people from other nations are rushing to open an account with Ello – when you examine which online sites are most affected, in terms of Google requests to remove links. Google has primarily deindexed search results from the following:
- www.facebook.com (the highest number of removed links – 3,353)
And these stats only relate to cases when information has been removed from the search results, however, the website forget.me (an online site that offers services to Europeans wanting to submit a delisting request) has published their stats recently, which suggest the most sites with the most requests are Facebook, Google (Google+, Google Groups, Picasa, etc.), YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. So Ello’s direct competitors are under pressure and this appears to be driving traffic to Ello and away from the more ‘intrusive’ established sites.
In these circumstances, social platforms like Ello have an opportunity to succeed internationally and take at least some traffic away from the major players.
In the current environment, the possibilities open to such small companies are bigger than ever before and if not Ello then some other tiny operator will arrive to challenge the status quo. It is simply a matter of time.
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