The past week has been a gauntlet for the team behind Ello, the elegant Anti-Facebook, as the seven founders to hold tight to the reins of what is likely the fastest growing social network in history. Perhaps the biggest upset around Ello, besides cynical griping about their business model or manifesto, is the fact that even as Ello explodes in popularity, it’s still in beta — a totally unfinished product.
As of today, Ello has checked off the first couple of boxes on their most-wanted features list — the first updates to the site since their sudden acceleration. Since shoring up user privacy is Ello’s new top priority for building out new features, today’s additions are “blocking” and “muting,” both triggered by a little icon next to a user’s Friend/Noise buttons.
“Muting is if I want to quiet you down from my feed,” Ello cofounder Todd Berger told Betabeat exclusively, “but blocking is if I’m like, ‘You make me nervous or you’re stalking me, so now you can’t see any of my content.'”
Ello’s blocking feature will cause a user to be unable to access your profile or feed, or leave comments on any of your content. It’s perhaps the most important for people who left other social networks for reasons of harassment or abuse. The only thing that remains uncertain about Ello’s blocking features is whether or not you will show up in search to someone who has blocked you — the answer here should probably be “no, someone you’ve blocked should never see your anything, ever,” but there is still some internal debate among the team.
Muting is the ability to silence someone from showing up in your feed. You can still friend that person and see their content if you visit their page, but their updates won’t show up when viewing your Friends or Noise — particularly useful if one prolific user is drowning out the other few dozen in your feed.
The next feature is Ello’s porn-filter settings, or “NSFW flagging.” When that feature rolls out, each profile will have a filter that will hide anyone who posts NSFW content — entire users, not just individual posts. A simple visit for setting will allow you to take the wall down and open yourself up to posts from any user.
“We’re hearing that there’s a lot of porn on Ello, which is fine, but we want to give people a way to filter it,” Mr. Berger said. “So the NSFW stuff is coming next.”
For those clamoring for totally private accounts, a la Twitter, it may be a little more time. Private accounts are a more meaty feature, and Mr. Berger said that the team is preparing to move Ello to a “more robust platform.” The Mode Set team that handles Ello’s system infrastructure is groaning under the weight of the new users, and Mr. Berger said it would take weeks to onboard new coders, weeks in which every day is a crucial new step in Ello’s nuclear virality. Each day, they discover new challenges they hadn’t come into contact with in their earlier development — things like web accessibility, which is basically like the internet’s version of making a building handicap accessibile.
Ello is taking a serious risk by digging into privacy features as the first priority on their checklist. The drive in new users last week was led by the LGBTQ community, who fled Facbeook to escape its draconian “real names” policy, and by rushing to make privacy options available, they cater to the needs of that piece of their community. But the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new users want features that make the network more network-y — reblogging, messaging, embedding and better search.
“Those other people can wait,” Mr. Berger said. “There are higher priorities — we have people here with needs, and we want to give them safety and security.”