Another week, another proprietary social network. This time it’s Ello which is trying to position itself as an ad-free answer to Facebook. The Register took it for a spin and made the following point in conclusion:
But is Ello quite as pure as it makes out? And will its lofty goals stand up against the test of time? I have my doubts.
Ello already has venture capital funding and VCs aren’t charities – they expect a return on investment. The site promises that its pay-for-features model will involve “very small” amounts of money but it’s going to take a serious amount of cash to run the servers needed to power the site properly if it gets a serious amount of users.
And this is why I won’t be signing up to Ello. For all its talk, Ello is yet another proprietary silo of a social network. The people behind Ello will, inevitably, come under pressure to provide a return to the venture capitalists that are funding it. It will either collapse or have to start breaking promises – quite possibly both.
And when Ello fails, all of its users will find themselves stuck in a silo again. Either they leave and lose contact with their connections, or they stay and put up with corporate behaviour with which they are increasingly uncomfortable (Hello, Facebook).
It’s for this reason that I think federated services are a much better proposition for all.
My preference is for GNU Social (also referred to as StatusNet) although other federated networks do exist (Friendica, Pump.io and Diaspora all spring to mind). The advantage that all of these offer is that you are not tied to a single provider. If I decide that I am not happy with my current instance, I can easily move to an alternative (or even install my own instance) and continue talking to exactly the same people over exactly the same interface.
We don’t accept proprietary limitations on which websites we visit. We don’t accept proprietary limitations on who we can exchange emails with. Why should we treat social networks any differently?