Ello: Exploring the Private Social Network

When Ello rolled out a public beta version, I was one of the curious geeks who wanted to see how things work inside the platform. Unfortunately, it took me more than a month after the official release when I accessed it (one of the bloggers in my local community offered invitations). I received a link, signed up, and got in.

“Simple, beautiful, and ad-free.” This has been Ello’s punch line. I find the first two adjectives as common and hyped as product descriptions, yet the third one served as the right hook for a budding social network site: ad-free?

How can that be? Most websites have been thriving through ads, and of course, a no-brainer is Facebook’s advertising business model where it’s collaborating with third-party data mining companies such as Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon. Perhaps, this could have kindled the idea that Ello is a Facebook competitor? Upon exploring the platform for weeks now (apparently, I’m still building my followers and too busy to focus on it), here are the things I discovered.

Ello is a simple private social network for creatives and professionals in a black and white UI. A group of programmers and designers based in the UK created the platform for their community; eventually, people wanted to join, so they built a public beta version. As of this writing, you need to be invited to set up your account.

Here’s the manifesto:

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

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.

You are not a product.

You can find out more about Ello here.

Assuming you get an invitation (from me), here’s what the dashboard looks like.


Ello is still in public beta. Under Settings, you can update your profile, bio, and links. When updating the entry, Ello automatically saves your input.

Scroll down to check out the “Settings” and “Notifications” options, adult-content control and account deletion.


Overall, everything you need to update for Settings is found in this tab.


Ello’s slider UI allows you to update a header image. Scroll up and down to see your profile and others’ updates.


With your avatar and header image, you just drag and drop the photos from your PC, and Ello uploads them. When posting an update, the small buttons are expanded when you hover the mouse: Upload, Cancel, and Post.


I mentioned earlier that Ello describes itself as “Simple and Beautiful.” While navigating and exploring the site, I realized there are no other words to describe it because Ello is just the way it is. It’s plainly simple to use, uncluttered, and beautiful – And yes, it’s ads-free.


  • No selfies, ‘food porn’, and late night booze photos – the content you’ll see is mostly creative, valuable, thought-provoking, and inspiring, giving you more space to share and browse what interests you – to just be yourself and share a “piece” and “peace” of mind. It’s a different world, a different platform.
  • Connect with Like-Minded People – what makes Ello’s model interesting is that it’s not everyone. You won’t find your friends here (unless you add those whom you think would be interested to join!), but there’s a vastness of like-minded hipsters, creatives, artists, geeks, and professionals whom you can connect with. In my circles, guess who I found: influencers and digital marketers in my local community.
  • No ads – Clean, simple, and no annoying pop-up banners.
  • All in one place – you find everything in one place on the upper left side: Discover, Invite, Settings, Friends, and Noise. And the text field is found in front of you: just “Say Ello…”
  • NSFW flagging – Since Ello is comprised of a diverse community of intellectuals, professionals and creatives, the “Not Suitable For Work” flagging requires users to flag their profile if they’re frequently posting, whether intentional or not, sexually explicit content. This is in respect to others who don’t want to see those sorts of posts. Meanwhile, users can also tweak the Settings to no see the sexually explicit content.

Ello also published an open letter due to the previous speculations that it will eventually use a paid advertising model. 


Ello targets a unique market, which is different from what Facebook and big brands cater. While navigating the site, it reminds me of Tumblr’s UI/UX, with the exception that Ello is, of course, a private social network site, while the former is both a microblogging and a public social networking site. If you’re looking for a private, ‘quiet’ space where you can just be yourself and squeeze some creative juices from artists, entrepreneurs and like-minded professionals, this is a good social networking site to start with, while expressing yourself and listening to what the influencers are saying.

With Ello, there’s a better way to communicate and express ideas. It’s just the way it was created – purposeful, transparent, and simple.

For now, you can only access the site using a web browser; personally, I also experienced some bugs while browsing it using mobile Safari (iOS) and Google Chrome (Android), though it has a responsive design. Another challenge for me is to build followers, and perhaps it could take a while.

What do you think of Ello’s business model?