There has been a lot of buzz about Ello recently, the latest being a charter released October 23rd that cements its ad-free status.
Ello started out with the promise of being “a different kind of social network”, and the idea has taken off fast, in fact it’s the fastest expending starter ever. In just a few months its popularity has exploded. Ello now has just over one million users, and there are three million on the waiting list, since new members have to receive invitations first.
Many questioned the notion of an ad-free site, especially after Ello announced that it has raised a fresh $5.5 million in venture capital. The company already expected a backslash; so they simultaneously signed a legally binding charter to sell neither ads nor users’ data. The charter also forbids the company to sell itself to a buyer not willing to abide by the charter’s rules. These actions in turn have led to new rumor over the long-term sustainability of Ello’s business model.
On top of that, they didn’t even register as a traditional corporation or C-Corp, but as a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). Registered in Delaware, a PBC is a kind of for-profit entity that is legally obliged to the impact its actions have on the wider public. According to one of Ello’s founders, Paul Budnitz “We really cannot be forced by our investors to break the basic principles.”
Its founders sensed that “there is a hunger to connect with friends” among the social network audience without having their data used for business purposes adding that “On an ad-driven social network, the advertiser is the customer and you’re the product that’s bought and sold. People are becoming aware that their data are an asset to companies, and as such are a part of business transactions, processed by computer algorithms and sourced by data mining companies. Being dedicated to protecting user data seems to have paid off for Ello.
Try registering at Ello, you will be required to type in your e-mail address and then expect for an invitation, but without any estimated time about when to expect it. Unlike most other sites, the next thing you’ll see instead of the standard “I agree to the terms and conditions” check box is a short message related to Ello’s policy of transparency, ending “You are not a product.” Do you agree?
Ello’s PBC Announcement
A BETTER WAY
There has been some speculation in the press since our launch 11 weeks ago that Ello will someday be forced to allow paid ads on our social network.
With virtually everybody else relying on ads to make money, some members of the tech elite are finding it hard to imagine there is a better way.
But 2014 is not 2004, and the world has changed.
To assure that Ello always remains ad-free, today Ello converted to a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC).
A Benefit Corporation is a new kind of for-profit company in the USA that exists to produce a benefit for society as a whole — not just to make money for its investors.
The Ello PBC charter states in the strongest legal terms possible that:
In other words, Ello exists for your benefit, and will never show ads or sell user data.
Simple, beautiful, and ad-free.
There is a better way.
We, as founders and investors in Ello, vow to support Ello’s mission and to abide by the terms of the Ello Charter.[Signed]
Read more about how Benefit Corps like Ello work, and how your business can become one too.
Ello’s Signed Letter
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