In the day and age of social-network powerhouses such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, new social networks are popping up to challenge the status quo.
But what new social networks are appearing on the scene and grabbing attention away from these big boys? There are several to boot.
Hailed as the anti-Facebook by many, Ello boasts an entirely different business model than Mark Zuckerberg’s social behemoth. Deemed “simple, beautiful and ad-free” by its team of artists and programmers, Ello launched in March 2014.
“Ello is a social network where people can be who they want to be and connect with people they want to connect with,” said Ello CEO and co-founder Paul Budnitz. “We don’t really see ourselves competing with Facebook at all — we see Facebook as an advertising platform, not a social network.”
Ello also prides itself on simplicity, transparency and being a place for empowerment, connection and celebration.
“It is an ad-free social-networking service which promotes itself as a place for people to feel a sense of community,” Budnitz said.
Ello is also invitation-only. To join Ello, you either have to know someone who is already using Ello, or request an invitation by visiting the homepage.
As a new social network, Ello, to some students, has a lot to be desired to compete with Twitter and Facebook.
“At first I was excited to try a new app that was ad-free and described as the anti-Facebook app. Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived,” said Julia Huck, a junior elementary education major. “I realized that the Ello app doesn’t allow certain features that I like using in other apps like Facebook and Twitter. I decided that it was not a compatible app for what I considered to be a successful social networking site.”
But despite some missing features, some are lauding Ello for not being as strict, in some regard, as Facebook. While Facebook has recently received some flak for requiring legal names for its users, Ello does not enforce a real-name policy.
“Ello allows community members to be who they want to be. The only piece of information we require is an email address,” Budnitz said. “For various reasons this has resonated with the LGBTQ community, as well as with many musicians and artists, and we are thrilled about it. You can use your real name or one you’ve chosen. A real-name policy isn’t enforced. It’s not completely anonymous because you can choose an alias name, but people can see exactly what you post. It’s just a site for everyone to be who they want to be.”
In its manifesto, Ello distinguishes itself from other social networking sites such as Facebook by declaring, “You are not a product.”
Ello is free to use and will not sell users’ information to third parties, according to the manifesto, and also gives users the option to opt out of information sharing.
“The site is dubbed ‘Ello’ because it is the most simple way to greet someone,” Budnitz said.
But for social-savvy students who prefer to go nameless, they have the option of going “Unseen” with another new social network.
Unseen is an anonymous photo-sharing social-networking app that is trending among many college campuses.
“We have the desire to change people’s lives for the better. Anonymous apps bring people together; it makes them feel a sense of community,” said CEO and co-founder Michael Schramm.
Schramm believes Facebook limits people and makes them feel inadequate.
“Anonymous apps are appealing to teens and college-age students because they do not have to maintain a sense of professionalism or appearance to friends and family,” Schramm said. “We want Unseen to be a tool for people to express themselves for who they really are.”
Unseen, which launched in May 2014, does not require your name, or even for you to sign up or log in. To use the app, all you have to do is download it onto your phone and pick your college campus feed from a search box to participate.
Any time you post something, no one will know who posted it, not even the creators of Unseen.
Unseen gives users options to add icons and text or to draw on the pictures they want to post. They can also comment, vote or down-vote images they like and dislike. It is also free to use.
“I recently downloaded the app, Unseen, and I think it’s really funny because people can post the most ridiculous pictures without any judgment from friends since it’s completely anonymous,” said freshman biomedical sciences major Monica Rojas. “The attention is focused on what the person posted, not the person posting it.”
However, anonymity tends to bring about sexually explicit content and Internet trolls.
“Anonymity is a very powerful thing. It’s going to be around for a long time,” Schramm said. “But there’s a lot of misconceptions and confusion on how it should be used.”
The freedom of anonymity, however, didn’t sit too well with some students.
“I have used the Unseen app before, but I deleted it from my phone shortly after,” said freshman biomedical sciences major Christina Tanios. “I thought it was kind of cool that college students could communicate amongst each other, however, some people abuse its power by posting or commenting inappropriate things.”
Unseen is also trying to not allow its app to become the Wild West of the anonymous world. It is constantly, but quietly, censoring its live feed, with no nudity allowed. If someone does post a nude photo, it will be deleted. But that certainly doesn’t stop people from trying.
“We try to encourage positive exchanges between users, but ultimately it is up to the users to do with the app what they want,” Schramm said.