Ello: The First Artist-Friendly Social Media Site

by Paddy Johnson and Corinna Kirsch on September 26, 2014 Internet


Is Ello the new Facebook? Within days of its beta launch, all our tech-friendly FB friends have been posting about how happy they are to be moving to this new social media site. Unlike FB, Ello promises no data-mining (important), no paid aids (important)—and prettiness (important).

This is the first social media site we’ve seen that’s truly artist-friendly. That’s in large part due to the design. The site looks Tumblr for NADA (or, for the ubernerd, Artstack); it features stark black text with vast swaths of white background. JPEGs, GIFs, videos, links and text are posted in a wide column to the right on the landing page. This column width allows for huge image posting—something nearly everyone in the art world (and other fields too), have been clamoring for for a long time.

The site was founded by Paul Budnitz, who also founded Kidrobot, and designed by “a group of seven well-known artists and programmers,” according to Ello’s “@wtf” section,  a hipper coinage for the “about” section. Worries about Facebook have been around for years, only to result in well-intentioned, decentralized platforms like Diaspora, but which, when launched, suffered from bugs and security holes. (They were kids with no  programming experience outside of the classroom.)

Hello Ello.

For those of you awaiting an invite, or who have received your golden ticket, we’re breaking down the pros and cons of what Ello has to offer us so far. Is it enough to make 2014 the year of the Great Migration Off Facebook? Possibly! But they need to fix a few problems first.


  • No ads!
  • Minimalist design aesthetic. Black and white, except for content posted by users.
  • Ello has what they call “containers,” for posting more than one file or link at a time. For instance, you could post an image, followed by a line of text, followed by a video. Or you could simultaneously post several images at once. This function definitely has some creative potential—you can show a sequence of images or GIFs, similar to the endless scroll of Cloaque.
  • You can post wide images—1,000px wide. This is a big deal for GIF-makers (and anyone else who likes images).
  • There doesn’t seem to be a character limit to the length of text you can post.
  • The text editor only includes bold and italics and one type of font.
  • You don’t have to use your real name. You can join as a group.
  • The site’s news channel is divided into two categories, “friends” and “noise.” We imagine this is like separating the wheat from the chaff, your true friends from your high school friends. Or your professional feed from your personal one. Right now, though, noise is filled with posts by strangers that look like stock photography.
  • Very likely, your mom won’t be on it for a while. “We built Ello for ourselves,” founder Paul Budnitz told Betabeat. They are serious about privacy and have a manifesto to prove it. “We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership,” their manifesto says. “You are not a product.”
  • Emoji integration. Any cheat you use here will work on Ello.


  • Currently, the site is very buggy. The friend search function isn’t working entirely. This is good for remaining anonymous, but bad for building a profile you might want to use. Hopefully, this bug will be worked out soon enough—it’s a major problem. (Tip: Everyone is posting their profile link on Twitter or Facebook so that you can add them.)
  • You can create links to video files, but you can’t embed them. (This could be a pro too, depending on your stance on such things. Facebook is near ruined thanks to its video autoplay function.)
  • You can’t share photos or videos directly from other sites unless you upload them. Say you want to share a photo from Tumblr: you’ll have to download the image from Tumblr, then upload it to Ello. Who knows how many people will cite the source of the original image? The impetus for giving credit to the photo’s author relies exclusively on the Ello user.
  • No chat service. This is a pro—for me, because unless you carefully manicure Facebook friend settings, the service often results in unsolicited messages. The higher the friend count, the less likely you are to manicure the settings. But many people prefer to have this functionality.

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