Peak Ello… already?

Disclaimer: I was an early Tumblr employee.

The Internet class lost its collective minds over the weekend when Ello - through its beta invite ‘forced scarcity’ system - went viral. Shades of Pinterest, Fab and Mailbox.

Ello offers not new functionality or innovation, but a new manifesto: “vote for us because we’re not Facebook.” Unfortunately, as products go, few have successes campaigning in the negative. 

Let’s look at what Ello actually is. It’s a gorgeous canvas for photos and text that is friendly to hybrid forms of GIFs and emojis. A place for self-expression. A watering hole for early adopters, especially designers and other creatives. A place for status updates. A place for portfolios.

Does this sound familiar? Oh yeah, it’s Tumblr, circa 2007.

The main issue here? Ello doesn’t offer anything new. It’s a redesigned Tumblr, with less features. Tumblr’s early thrust was both the dashboard and external blogs.

Everyone focuses on how easy it was to post things, but the early community was drawn to the creative themes, the bookmarklet and the dashboard. The dashboard was for community and the external blogs, with its attendant themes, were honeypots for designers, fashionistas, photographers and anyone who can work their way around Photoshop’s lighting effects. At the time, those were supernova innovations (cribbed from other places, but gelled together so well).

Now, in addition to all that, Tumblr has kick ass search courtesy of Yahoo, great ops engineering, crazy good mobile apps, photosets, GIF support, music integration, a great Theme Garden, Blog Spotlight, and so on. Alas, messaging remain rudimentary.

Looking at Ello’s proposed features roadmap, it’s a rehash of early Tumblr and in some ways, Twitter. There’s your friends/contacts. And there’s noise, which is a precursor to Tumblr Tags and Twitter Discover.  

So can Ello be the next big social network? Right now? No. A redesigned social network without any major innovation (i.e. explicit product features) cannot sustain enough momentum from viral marketing and philosophical announcements to get users to switch. “No ads” is product development by omission.. which is weird.

Many will be curious and try out the product. But Tumblr hasn’t stumbled - it’s product is as strong as ever for self-expression (despite increasing advertisements encroaching on the user experience) and Twitter owns the noise. But if Ello can come up with a killer feature or a set of features — be it focused on privacy, communication, distribution, or content creation - its design and marketing can spawn a formidable challenger for the incumbents.

As it is, my Ello feed is silent this Monday, after a frenzied 4-5 hours of activity over the last week. Let’s see how this plays out.

Transfering iPhone photos to a hard drive because I’ve maxed out my limit and found this old message for david from Curitiba. I <3 Brazil.

parislemon

parislemon:

Om Malik on the recent movement away from Facebook’s centralized way of doing things:

You can see this cycle through the entire history of the commercial Internet. The original web was so sparse (but also so slow to navigate) that Yahoo was started as a guide of worthwhile sites because it wasn’t easy to flit among web pages. Yahoo’s directory proved popular, and sensing opportunity, the company added all sorts of new features: search, chat, email, stock tickers, sports, news, personals, e-commerce, and photos. By the late 1990s, Yahoo had become the grand aggregator, its pages as cluttered as a Canal Street stall. This created an opening for Google, with its bare-bones home page that held only a search box and company logo. With the rise of broadband, which made it easy to jump around, the web became disaggregated and brought with it focused, functional tools such as Skype and YouTube.

Fast-forward to today and replace ­Yahoo with Facebook. Facebook showed us the value of aggregating all of those small chunks of information, including photos and status updates, that we wanted to consume on the now dynamic and interactive web. That single string of updates, known as News Feed, was a brilliant product that powered the company’s rise from 2006 to 2011. Then along came Instagram and its peers, born for a generation that doesn’t know how to live without an always-on connection. They facilitate new online behaviors that have been invented for a world of touch and mobile. These apps were designed to be great at just one or two things. The tech world had swung back to being simple, lightweight, and fast—at precisely the same time that Facebook feeds were becoming so bloated and complicated.

Yep, it’s cyclical. And this is also why Facebook is now working to unbundle its own services, to distance itself from the cluttered mess it has become — before it’s too late.

This is really interesting because one of the best things — the core thing — about Tumblr is its refusal to specialize in any one media like photos or links or tracks or text or video. Sure, it’s great at photos, but its insistence on being a compendium of all these things… much like Facebook… is it’s strength and secret sauce.

I wonder how it will fare in this new decentralized world, if indeed the talking heads are to be believed. Also interesting is Twitter’s ongoing experiment to aggregate photos and text and (failed) music and video (w Vine)… it doesn’t fit neatly into this narrative of unbundling.

One dude who deserves more airtime: @jcb was the early designer, frontend, backend, OG, #5 staffer, do-it-all glue that made Tumblr what it was in the formative years. Super talented and so humble that he’ll never brag about himself and will let others take the spotlight. And he’s super nice! I’ve seen him pull together some amazing features without breaking a sweat. I’ve missed working with Jacob a lot.

One dude who deserves more airtime: @jcb was the early designer, frontend, backend, OG, #5 staffer, do-it-all glue that made Tumblr what it was in the formative years. Super talented and so humble that he’ll never brag about himself and will let others take the spotlight. And he’s super nice! I’ve seen him pull together some amazing features without breaking a sweat. I’ve missed working with Jacob a lot.


I came to the job as a fan. I had emailed Tumblr on a whim, telling them of my admiration and absolute belief that it was going to be the next big thread in the social fabric of the Internet:
“As I find myself discovering daily Tumblr awesomeness, I thought, “This is exactly the place where I want to help build and make better.””
A few months later, John called me on the phone while I was in Argentina and a few weeks later, I met David and the team and instantly felt at home.

I wrote a Medium thingy.
(via What I gained from working at Tumblr)

I came to the job as a fan. I had emailed Tumblr on a whim, telling them of my admiration and absolute belief that it was going to be the next big thread in the social fabric of the Internet:

“As I find myself discovering daily Tumblr awesomeness, I thought, “This is exactly the place where I want to help build and make better.””

A few months later, John called me on the phone while I was in Argentina and a few weeks later, I met David and the team and instantly felt at home.

I wrote a Medium thingy.

(via What I gained from working at Tumblr)

david
(photo via david)

Congrats Tumblr team.  This is one of my favorite moments from the early days.

Lots of thoughts about my two former companies coming together - excitement, wariness, expectant, hopefulness — but just today, I’m simply grateful to have worked with amazing and talented friends who dedicated themselves to the task of making the world a more expressive place.

The road ahead is paved with the best intentions.

(photo via david)

Congrats Tumblr team. This is one of my favorite moments from the early days.

Lots of thoughts about my two former companies coming together - excitement, wariness, expectant, hopefulness — but just today, I’m simply grateful to have worked with amazing and talented friends who dedicated themselves to the task of making the world a more expressive place.

The road ahead is paved with the best intentions.

David is very charming, and clearly very very bright, and understands the product,” said an executive who talked to Tumblr about the role. But, “he’s incredibly confrontation averse, and there’s almost a ‘Game of Thrones’ palace feeling to the management team.

Will Yahoo Try to Get Its “Cool Again” by Doing a Deal for Tumblr?

Oh god, as someone who worked for both Yahoo and Tumblr — I am at a loss for words. And who’s this ‘source’ with this crazy quote?  It just makes me start putting roles to people: Joffrey, Sansa — who the heck is Tyrion?!

Keep on shipping cool stuff, guys!

PS I love how this executive who shall not be name threw in the word “incredible” in there. 

WTF happened to Tumblr&#8217;s logged out page?
Proportions of logo, copy and fields are all off. I&#8217;m hoping that this resulted from some hardcore funnel/metrics analysis. Otherwise it looked like marketing threw up on what was such a clean and elegant design.
Also - interesting to note that the copy is much more geared towards a mass market approach vs a &#8216;creators&#8217; network. And who the fuck cares about &#8216;blogs&#8217; in 2013?

WTF happened to Tumblr’s logged out page?

Proportions of logo, copy and fields are all off. I’m hoping that this resulted from some hardcore funnel/metrics analysis. Otherwise it looked like marketing threw up on what was such a clean and elegant design.

Also - interesting to note that the copy is much more geared towards a mass market approach vs a ‘creators’ network. And who the fuck cares about ‘blogs’ in 2013?