A NEW ad-free social network, dubbed the ‘anti-Facebook’ is luring users in their thousands – but will it last?

Founded in March this year by entrepreneur Paul Budnitz, Ello.co was originally only intended for Budnitz and his buddies, but they opened it up in August, on an invite-only basis.

The site’s popularity soared last month when Facebook started cracking down on users who weren’t signed up with their real name – in particular drag artists who use their stage names – and hundreds of people from the LGBTQ community flocked to Ello, where pseudonyms are allowed.

They won’t disclose a figure for total active users, but Ello rep Rachel Fukaya told me last week that business is booming: “We’ve been receiving between 40-50K user invite requests an hour.”

So what’s it like?

Featuring a simple, clean black and white interface, the site uses the Twitter-style @yourname convention but is visually more like Instagram.

As well as promising no adverts ever, Ello aims to deliver a clutter-free feed, asking you to categorize the pages you follow as ‘friends’ or ‘noise’, with separate feeds for each, meaning you can quickly filter out the fodder.

On the other hand, some controls aren’t as tight as Facebook’s.

There is currently no way to block unwanted followers, but “our main priority right now is amping up privacy features”, says Fukaya.

With no ad revenue, how will the social site survive?

Initial funding came from a venture capital firm, but in future, users will have the option to purchase special features – for example, being able to control several Ello accounts from one login – for one or two dollars.

Critics warn, however, that this micro-payments system could be off-putting: “Over all the other social media experiences from Whatsapp to Instagram to Pinterest – the reason they work is because they’re free,” James McQuivey, an analyst at tech research firm Forrester, told the BBC.

But Ello insists that’s not the case: “We’re not worried,” Fukaya says. “Our beta users have been writing in by the thousands requesting features that they would pay for.”

Should Facebook be shaking in its digital boots then?

Well, Ello is clearly enjoying a major surge in sign-ups, but without any concrete data, it’s hard to tell whether these will translate into active users, and whether they’ll stick around.

It’s good to know there’s an ad-free, pseudonym-friendly social media option out there, but is that enough to lure 1.32 billion Facebookers? Probably not.