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Ello: How is it different from other social networks?

Ello is the hottest new social media site, signing up 34,000 new users an hour. It's being called the anti-Facebook and is defining itself as a place for conversation and sharing ideas.

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Ello. It's the hottest new social media site on the Web. More than 30,000 new users are signing up every hour, and it has become a hot topic of conversation among techies. But many are questioning how Ello will make itself distinct from other social media giants.

Ello is marketing itself as a "simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network," leading some to call it the anti-Facebook. 

"Ello doesn't sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third parties," according to the site's about page. "We also think ads are tacky, that they insult our intelligence and that we're better without them."

Ello launched in March, but until August, it had only a hundred users. After increased demand, the site became public, and in the past two weeks, it has become quite popular. So popular in fact, that Ello had to limit the amount of users because it didn't have enough server space. The only way to join Ello is to either have an existing user invite them to join, or sign up for an invitation through the Ello homepage.

"We're slowly letting new users onboard who have requested invites from the Ello homepage," writes Justin Gitlin, a developer at Ello, on the network's website. "There is a huge queue, and we're scaling up our servers to handle the demand."

For those who are lucky enough to get an Ello account, here's what you can expect.

From an Ello account, users can invite new followers, post comments, and post photos. Though, unlike Facebook, there isn't a photo album section, and unlike Twitter, post can be any length. From the Ello user homepage, you can see what your friends are posting and writing about in chronological order. When visiting someone's page, users can easily write a message using the prominent comment box. And under the "Noise" option, users can see what is popular around Ello. 

Ello told the Monitor that 34,000 new users are signing up every hour. But that number pales in comparison to Facebook's 1.3 billion users or Twitter's 271 million users.

So, how will Ello make itself distinct from other social media sites? Words.

Everything about Ello's layout indicates that its designers wanted it to be a place for conversation and sharing ideas. Twitter limits word counts to 140 characters, and Facebook hides longer post behind a "See More" button. But Ello shows the whole post, no matter how long.

"It’s very simple and very clean. We built it so we could show full screen ... long form content," Paul Budnitz, Ello's founder, told Bloomberg. "Ello was built, really, as the best place to view and look at content and also talk about it...."

Even Ello's font says “Writerly. Rough draft. Talk it over,” writes Clay Shirky, a professor of media studies at New York University, in a 1,000-word, two-part Ello post. He says unlike sites such as Medium, which was created for blog post, Ello is a social media site built around conversation.

"The default presence of your friends list makes conversation seem like a – if not the – core function," Mr. Shirky wrote. "There are only two kinds of text entry – post and comment."

But, Shirky writes that there are design problems that make conversations difficult to have.

"[There is no] reply function other than to the original post," Shirky writes. "The obvious thing to do is write an omnibus reply, listing each @user I am replying to in turn. And this has started to seem...un-Ello-like. The system isn't well set up for that."

Ello says that they are trying to address some functionality problems, and will soon unveil some new features, like a block button.

"Right now the biggest priority is to roll out new features, and make sure the community aspect of Ello is flourishing" Rachel Fukaya, an Ello spokeswoman, writes in an e-mail to the Monitor. "We’re listening to the Ello users and realigning features based on user feedback. Along with making sure the site is running well. We’re very much still beta. Things are still buggy in places, but makes it an exciting adventure for everyone."

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