So I figured I would log back into Ello, for the first time in five months, and find out how it works these days.
Well — there were indeed some new features to try.
I managed to embed a video from YouTube, and then I got it to play. That was fun. I succeeded in triggering a few new keyboard shortcuts, like “F” for my Friends page, and “R” to view my notifications. I drag-and-dropped friends’ avatars into the Omnibar — the box at the top that you use to post text — and saw their Ello handles appear. Cool.
Then I pulled up my Friends page — Ello’s version of Facebook’s news feed — to see what there was to consume. Below the two fresh Ello posts I had just made were a string of posts from one of the Ello cofounders I follow, Justin Gitlin.
Below that, there was a one-line post my boss randomly made two weeks ago: a brief remark and a link to an article about Ello chief executive Paul Budnitz not showing up for his talk at South by Southwest.
Then, more posts from Gitlin: demonstrations of cute new Ello-only emoji, meta-posts containing artistic variations on the Ello logo, more Ello status updates, more Ello art. … Then a post about someone giving up on Ello. Then another bunch of posts from Gitlin. And then, after going two months back in time, I stopped scrolling.
It occurred to me that Ello might get better if I only followed more people — people whom I find genuinely interesting. So I shifted over to Ello’s new and improved Discover page. Next to the search function, there are now three channels that highlight users: Recommended, Related, and Random. Soon actual content will show up in these channels, along with users, but for the moment that feature was not live for me.
I scrolled through some profiles that had caught my attention on the Discover page. Some of the ones I clicked on hadn’t been updated in a month or more. Perhaps I didn’t do a sufficient amount of discovering. So I went and found another bunch of profiles to scan — and ended up finding some that looked promising.
On the upside, Ello, now that I revisit it, seems like it has the potential to be a more chill, minimalist Tumblr or Instagram if you want to check out images (new community accounts, like @ellophotography, are worth watching) or a more hip, modern version of LiveJournal if you’re looking to read text, or a more slimmed-down take on SoundCloud if you’re seeking out audio. Thinking of it as a competitor to Facebook — or Twitter, with its emphasis on brevity — is missing the point.
But with that said, Ello does have a learning curve. It takes some work to learn about the latest features by wading through posts from members of the Ello team. It’s not as if there’s been a lot of chatter about Ello in the public realm, beyond the website’s boundaries. It’s on you to figure everything out.
And it’s also on you to find people who share the sort of material that you like. Ello is getting better at that, but it’s still tedious.
But despite those drawbacks, I can say this confidently: I really do look forward to coming back tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
I’m just not sure how many other people will.