Hype machine

It’s difficult not to be cynical, but as online buzz surrounding Ello grows, it’s also impossible not to question its relevancy.

And time spent scouring the site still left me doubtful. Do we really need yet another way to connect?

The people behind Ello think so.

Launched in March by Kidrobot founder Paul Budnitz, who teamed up a graphic-design firm and a technology collective, the site's popularity grew last month after Facebook's controversial decision to enforce its “real names” policy angered many in the LGBQT community—particularly drag-queen performers.

Ello's founders pride themselves on being very different from Facebook: Ad-free, simple to use and respectful of privacy.

“We believe there is a better way.” Ello's “manifesto” reads. “We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. … You are not a product.”

At a glance, this latest social-media darling lives up to its promises with fuss-free design and easy-to-navigate privacy and user settings.

Still, even the simplest network requires funding, and its founders have suggested they may adopt a voluntary pay model. But will we pony up? Do we even care?

As The Washington Post pointed out, “According to a 2013 Pew poll, 94 percent [!] of adult Internet users have done nothing to hide their personal data from Facebook … which doesn't exactly evidence the widespread adoption of Ello's pay-what-you-like principles.”

Perhaps Ello's founders need to sell users on features we apparently care about more than privacy: meaningful social interaction. A no-troll environment. A Buzzfeed-list-free zone. A place where your extreme-right-wing uncle can't post the latest “Obummer” meme to your wall.

Such features might elevate the buzz from mere hype to a real online shift.