Ello, the ad-free social network, finally has an iPhone app.
The much-hyped social network first launched in September as an invitation-only website, which helped generate interest as people began wondering if Ello would turn into a haven for those tired of Facebook's advertising.
With 38,000 sign-up requests an hour at the peak of its buzz, Ello was able to turn its hype into $11 million in funding. Since then, however, public interest has waned and Ello has largely been silent for the past few months as its creators worked on the social network's missing piece: a mobile app.
"What we’ve been doing since then is letting the community build — now we have millions of people on Ello," Paul Budnitz, Ello's founder, told Business insider. "So we’ve been building it organically while we’ve been creating new features and actually building it out to what it needs to be."
Budnitz and the Ello team decided from the beginning to launch Ello as website first, and release its apps in the following year.
"We wanted to create the tone for what Ello is and what it’s become, ahead of time," Budnitz said. "We didn’t want it to be chatty, snappy, we wanted it to actually be a real community where people posted high-quality stuff where it was very positive, with more long-form writing."
That's why Ello launched on the web first, Budnitz said, "because that’s where most high-quality content is created, like really beautiful artwork and amazing animated GIFs.
"We could have just let everyone in and let it become this gigantic, who knows what the hell it was, but we looked at each other and said that’s not our goal. We don’t want to become the Walmart of social networks. That’s what they are doing over there [at Facebook]."
Ello's iPhone app carries much of the same tone and format as its website: The typeface is the same, there's two different news feeds (Friends and Noise), and there's the same emphasis on getting rid of clutter in favor of a focus on in-line photos, GIFs, and paragraphs of text.
The two news feeds, Friends and Noise, are further testaments to Ello's focus on creating a beautiful browsing experience. People on Ello can't see if you choose to add them to your Friends or Noise feed. The idea is to put the people you're closest to in Friends, where you'll see a chronological timeline of posts that are fully expanded.
Noise, on the other hand, shortens posts to fit more on the screen at once, allowing for faster browsing. The goal of the Noise feed is to allow all of your acquaintances to spill over into this section, as you may prefer merely glancing at their posts instead.
Aside from the other normal features like a profile page, the Ello app also introduces real-time notifications for the first time along with a new Discovery feature that lets you find your friends by importing your contacts list.
“A lot of the features and functions that people have been waiting for, we put into here even before they got the web," Budnitz said.
Ello is basically a clean, well-designed mobile app that those using the service have been waiting for. With the social network's buzz dying down almost as quickly as it started, it's easy to see Ello's iPhone app as one of the last chances to entice new users to an ad-free environment that caters to designers, artists, and creatives.
"Now people are two thirds more active, the people we’ve given the app to," Budnitz said, and it's certainly interesting to think how many more users Ello might have now if they had managed to launch their iPhone app earlier before the hype died down.
For Android and Windows Phone users, Ello is planning to launch on both platforms "later this summer."