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Destler Dodge

“We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency,” reads Ello’s manifesto. A quick glance through the text reveals several veiled potshots at Facebook for its heavy reliance on advertisers for monetization. On the other hand, Ello is ad-free and claims to be doing minimal data mining, making the site a rich and independent platform for sharing content freely.

Ello CEO Paul Budnitz claimed an initial rate of 4,000 new users per hour when Ello first came into focus this past month. As the buzz grows, Budnitz refuses to release an exact number, but the site is rumored to be currently clocking in at 50,000 sign-ups per hour, including new accounts, invites sent and new invites requested. At the moment, Ello is only honoring invites from existing guests, creating the impression of a sold-out concert for a rare tour.

At its first launch in May 2013, Ello failed to get any traction for a long while and was taken down. Budnitz reformed the site as an invitation-only network after raising $435,000 in seed funding from FreshTracks Capital in January 2014 and relaunched the site in March 2014. Ello owes the sudden surge in popularity to a recent abuse of Facebook’s policy regarding account authenticity. A user decided to report several members of the LGBT community as fake accounts. Facebook requires users to use their legal names for verification in such cases, and this resulted in the accounts being deleted because a large number of the accounts used stage names rather than legal ones. Amid protests, a large portion of these members moved to Ello, which found itself in the right place at the right time. Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox has since then apologized for the incident, but Ello could still end up coming out on top with Facebook having faced these allegations of discrimination before and yet showing no sign of slowing down any time soon. Since then, there has been a storm of articles across all media and some smart marketing campaigns on Budnitz’s part in an attempt to keep that prospect afloat.

Despite being in beta and having several bugs, Ello seems to be performing well. It remains to be seen if it can manage to make room for an ever-growing audience.