There’s a new social media platform called Ello, that’s making a splash for their ad-free policy and their outspoken criticism of their social media brethren. Their 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.
The response has been overwhelming for the invite-only network, with requests in recent days at times exceeding 40,000 per hour.
But I suspect that their no-add policy is only part of the reason why Ello is getting so much attention. Om Malik hit the nail on the head with this Twitter post:
The obsessive coverage of Ello is less about Ello. Instead it really is about our growing dissatisfaction with the state of social networks.
— Om Malik (@om) September 26, 2014
Dave Winer immediately followed up with his Manifesto for Web Writing:
The web of 2014 is in the middle of a huge battle to force people to write the stuff in the same place people read it. Whether you hate advertising or not doesn’t matter, it’s all part of the same system. You make me, as a writer, choose either to give it all to you, or none to you. And yet the underlying network that we use, doesn’t have these limits.
I find it ironic and unsettling that the Internet, a decentralized network where data is distributed without prejudice, has become such a compartmentalized place. When it comes to social networks, we are forced to choose which ones we belong to, based largely on the number of people we know there. We become part of a social network where fraternization with the world outside its walls is discouraged. This negates the very thing that drew me to the Internet in the first place: the ability to communicate with anyone, at any time, because we share a common platform.
My current solution to this dilemma is imperfect. I have a place that I control at gregfalken.com. This is where you can find me and where I share things that I think you might find interesting. From there, I am using IndieWeb principals and projects to distribute my words to other networks that make it possible to do so. For today, that means Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Those of you who know that I’m a Google fanboy will be surprised that Google Plus isn’t on the list. Google, in it’s mysterious wisdom, has decided that Google Plus will not accept input from the outside world. In programmer-speak they have no write API (application programming interface), so anything that I post there has to be done manually.
The best that I can say about this solution is that it’s fairly flexible. As other networks come along they can be added, provided that they offer the inclusiveness of a read/write API. Right now WordPress is my authoring platform of choice but that too can change.
It’s discouraging that it takes so much effort to reach across these social media boundaries. I will continue to explore the options and encourage those of you who are interested to do the same. Please let me know in the comments if you have found any alternatives for broadcasting your own words beyond the single purpose networks.