Ello, as a social network and competitor to Facebook, is a flop. But Ello, as an act of defiance toward Facebook’s overly strict user policies, is a rousing success. The new “ad free” network launched to rousing fanfare from tech geeks, self proclaimed social media insiders, and the other usual suspects in the geek echo chamber. But much like other geek-centric launches, Google+ for instance, those efforts went nowhere and the insiders merely ended up with an empty network where they could brag about having the whole thing to themselves. However, days after Ello launched and bombed, Facebook did chance its policy toward what it calls fake names.
Various Facebook users have placed nicknames or pseudonyms on their user accounts, either because they don’t go by their legal name in the real world or because they don’t want their online identity to be traceable in the real world for fear of discrimination or persecution. But Facebook Inc has cracked down on that, identifying users with names that don’t appear to be real, and forcing them to change their usernames accordingly. One Facebook friend of mine, for instance, is known by a three letter nickname that is not a derivative of his legal first name, and was forced to change it last year.
But with even the threat of competition and potential abandonment, even the most dominant of overlords is prone to give an inch in order to keep its minions from roaming a mile. The launch of Ello, meaningless as it turned out to be in the scheme of competing social networks, did prompt Facebook to decide that users can in fact use nicknames and aliases in certain circumstances. Accordingly, my friend is once again able to go by his real-world nickname online, and his account has already been changed to reflect that fact. So even though Ello will be remembered as just another failed attempt at out-geeking Facebook, if it’s remembered at all, it did serve the purpose that some of those threatening to flee to it were aiming for.