You remember Facebook. It used to be really popular but now it has 1.23 billion monthly users and nobody likes it anymore. It has too many ads and doesn't respect people's privacy. That's why nobody goes there anymore. Well, except those 1.23 billion people.
Obviously, the situation cries out for a new social network -- one that won't have so many ads, will respect everyone's privacy and so forth and so on. This is where something called Ello fits in, at least as its founders see it.
It's not just vaporware. Ello says it already has 1 million members and a few million more just waiting to join. Oh, and it's also raised a little over $5.5 million from investors who say they are willing to take a long-term view and be very patient about seeing a return on their money.
What's so great about Ello? Well, it says it will never have advertising and will never sell information about its users to any of those greedy marketers who are always stalking everyone around the Web. It has organized itself as a Public Benefit Corp., which is sort of like a charity that's allowed to make money -- to do well while doing good, as they like to say.
Of course, if you don't charge advertisers, you have to charge somebody else. In this case, that somebody else will be the users of the site. Ello says it will use "micro-payments," which is a cute little way of saying the charge won't be too high.
The micro-payments will be for extra services that Ello will offer. It doesn't know what those services will be yet, apparently, but says it's confident it will dream something up as time goes by. Sort of the way smartphone apps just sprout up the moment they're needed.
And besides, Ello says it won't need to make as much money as the big greedy sites because it won't be doing as much. It won't be tracking members, selling data to marketers or doing any of those other things that eat up so much staff time. And generate the revenue that keeps the lights on.
A small universe
Of course, a social network is only as good as its members, who generally join up to interact with their friends and acquaintances, not with strangers. If one social network has 1.23 billion members and another one has a million or two, it's kind of likely the bigger one will have more of your friends and acquaintances. Which could make it a little hard for Ello to gain traction.
Once you join up, of course, you can try to get your friends to join too. You can send them those annoying little notices everybody is always getting about LinkedIn, Google+ and all the other social networks that are clogging up the interpipes.
It may be a little harder, though, to convince your friends to join a network that they have to pay for, although perhaps Ello will let you pick up the tab for your friends. Hmmm ... life online gets more like an evening at the pub all the time.