TECH

What Is 'Ello' And How Do You Get An Invite?

30/09/2014 14:27 BST | Updated 30/09/2014 16:59 BST

'Ello' has all the makings of a tech hype bubble: a new social network pitched as the "anti-Facebook", rich in design but poor in features and users, which is suddenly flooded with attention and attacked by hackers.

The next stage (usually) is a week or so of manic username grabs, invite-only codes hitting eBay and eventually a long drift into obscurity.

Except this one might be different. Ello seems to be going mainstream.

For one thing, about a week after the hype first struck the new social network du jour, the BBC has now reported on the phenomenon - and the story has been the most read tale on their site all day, even more popular than the rather more sobering news that literally half the animals in the world are dead. Priorities.

For now it's still tough to get an invite: you basically have to know someone who's already inside. Or go on eBay and buy one for literally hundreds of pounds.

Anyway, we managed to get an early look at what it's really like to use Ello. But first we asked you why you're actually looking to leave Facebook in the first place. This is what you said.



So a mixture of spite, hatred and curiosity then? Very good.

Thing is, we've used Ello for a few days and we already have some thoughts about this supposed saviour of social media - even if that label has the network's creators as bemused as Mark Zuckerberg's assistant's assistant's assistant probably is by this low-level assault on their 1.3-billion user empire.

ELLO: The First Review

The first thing to say about Ello is that there isn't very much going on there at the moment. It's invite-only for a reason - half the features planned for release aren't built yet, the number of users is very low, and it's not entirely clear what you're supposed to be doing.

The first hour goes like this: you get a code, you sign up (excited to be part of the club) and set up your profile with the familiar picture-description-link triumvirate of personal social data. The main difference appears to be that your profile pic is a circle, not a square. This presents interesting design decisions to make if you're a graduate designer, and looks a bit funny if you're not.

ello

Then you go about adding friends. Well, we say that. But there's no way yet to import lists of friends from other services, so you're left to add a bunch of the pre-selected 'Myspace Toms', search using the hit-and-miss tool for some friends you think might have signed up, and hope for someone to reciprocate.

But this is where things get kind of neat. The site lets you place your contacts in two groups invisible to that user - "friends" whose updates you see in big, full-width posts, or "noise" whereby their posts are relegated to a separate, minimised grid. This helps keep the post numbers manageable and readable. Tick for a cool feature there.

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Above: The 'noise' page

Then you set about posting. You can post text, links and pictures right now, and get to see how many views each post has received. Sometimes people comment, mostly they don't.

You can also browse around for other neat pictures and content, if you like, and get an ego boost by sending lesser-well-connected friends invite codes.

Other than this there really isn't too much to Ello right now. It looks clean and minimal - but that's largely due to a lack of features and could be easily compromised by new releases to come. There's no app, no one there you know, and nothing really to do.

This is sort of Ello's genius - it's a social network where you don't have to really do anything.

It's like a clean, white, quiet room where no one is making any noise or asking you to speak. It's very zen, very relaxing and kinda interesting, but it's not really a social network.

And let's face it: if that sounds like what you're after, the solution to your problem might be... deleting your Facebook page.