Ello, the so-called “anti-Facebook,” is still swinging. The lesser-known social network is sending shuttle buses to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, Monday for a protest against the site’s policy requiring legal names on profiles.
If you don’t remember the melodramatic saga, here’s a brief synopsis: Ello launched in September 2014 with the aim of luring Facebook users with its promise of an ad-free site, no complex algorithm or data tracking and the freedom to use whichever name members choose.
The site was initially invite-only, and enrollment was once recorded as high as 38,000 per hour. Now, the privately owned Ello has “millions” of users, CEO and co-founder Paul Budnitz told Business Insider. But there’s no word of their activity level.
“Because Ello will never have ads or sell user data, you can safely be whoever you want. On Ello we celebrate the LGTBQ community's right to live their digital lives with freedom and dignity,” Budnitz said in a press release announcing the protest.
Ello has declared June 1 “Ello Pride Day.” The day’s protest will be led by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a gay activist group run by drag queens. The organization, which was founded in 1979 in San Francisco, is continuing to take issue with Facebook’s “real name policy.”
That’s the term given to the requirement that Facebook’s users must use their legal names on the site. Tension around that policy escalated in the fall of 2014, resulting in Facebook chief product officer, Chris Cox, apologizing to the LGBT community in a Facebook post and promising change. But nine months later, no new guidelines have emerged.
And so, Facebook continues to face backlash from the LGBT community. In fact, San Francisco Pride considered dropping Facebook’s sponsorship of the annual pride parade in June, the SF Examiner reports. But the company won out in a 5-4 vote by the parade board.
What else has been up with Ello since last fall’s hype? The site is out of beta and is now available for anyone to join without an invitation. Ello will release a mobile app mid-June, a representative told International Business Times. The first app will be available for iPhone only, and Android and Windows versions are planned for later this summer. In April, Ello raised an additional $5 million, bringing its funding total up to nearly $11 million.