Stylist.co.uk presents the comprehensive cheat sheet to the social media platform that’s conquering the App Store.
On Monday, I made a new acquaintance. Or rather, three. ‘Acquaintances’ is the name given to the first level of connection on new social media app, Vero, which has emerged – seemingly from nowhere –to become the most downloaded app on both the iOS App Store and Google Play earlier this week.
If you’ve ventured onto social media over the last five days, Vero’s presence will have seemed almost inescapable. Instagram influencers have been relentlessly posting stories and screenshots proclaiming they’ve joined Vero and entreating followers to connect with them on the network, like Pied Pipers with a fondness for quilted Gucci handbags. Over on Twitter, common questions include querying exactly what a ‘Vero’ is, or asking others what users should do after initially signing up.
No one seems to know precisely what the app is, where it’s come from or what’s driving the sudden surge of interest in it. But with rumours initially floating round that the first one million users to create a profile on the platform would have any future fees waived for life, many have rushed to jump on the Vero train before it runs away without them.
I’m one of them. So how does this pretender to Instagram’s throne stack up against the competition? And should you bother clearing enough memory on your phone to download it? Here, stylist.co.uk has put together a complete cheat sheet to the latest social platform promising to revolutionise our connections.
What is Vero?
At its core, it’s a social media platform that allows users to post a wider range of content than usual. Anything from photos to songs and book recommendations can be uploaded to a person’s stream – in theory (more on this later). These posts go on a feed – although which feed you choose to share them with is up to you. On Vero, there are different levels of privacy available: ‘Close Friends’, ‘Friends’, ‘Acquaintances’ and ‘Followers’. Connecting in this way seems fraught with potential pitfalls – awkward moments are almost certain to arise when you realise Emma from Marketing has categorised you as a ‘Close Friend’ and you’ve lumped her with the label of ‘Acquaintance’. It’s also a feature that will definitely be exploited by savvy individuals if Vero does manage to take off; it’s easy to see how influencers with dedicated followings could start charging fans for access to exclusive content on the more private levels of their profiles.
To sign up, you have to enter your phone number as well as a full name (although you’re not forced to give your real one). Vero’s team claims this is to deter fake profiles and aid connections with your contacts book, but it may put off many who feel it’s a little too much information to be sharing with an app that’s come out of nowhere. As for price, there will be a point in the future where a subscription model will come into play, but after surpassing that initial one million users so quickly, Vero has announced they will be extending the current fee waiver offer until further notice.
What separates Vero from existing apps?
Vero is currently touting itself using two main selling points: no algorithms, and no ads.
“People naturally seek connection,” reads the Vero manifesto. “That’s why online social networks have been so widely adopted over the past 10 years. They offered the promise of constant connection […] but as time passed, an imbalance began to form between the interests of the platforms and the best interests of the users. A false sense of connection left us lonelier than ever.”
It goes on to grandly announce that: “We decided to create something more authentic […] a social network that lets you be yourself.”
What this manifests itself as, is a notable absence of the algorithm that has so infuriated Instagram users since 2017. Instead, the Vero feed is reverse-chronological, like the days of yore on the internet, when everyone’s posts got a fair look in and big brands didn’t constantly perch at the top of your stream.
It’s a smart move; altering existing algorithms has proved to be the biggest bugbear currently plaguing social media apps. Facebook’s attempts to streamline what their users see resulted in the rise of ‘fake news’ in 2016, and a recent overhaul has proved catastrophic for small businesses on the platform. Equally, a February 2018 Snapchat update that removed the sequential list of incoming snaps, prompted such outrage that a Change.org petition was started to demand the company reverse the revamp. Kylie Jenner even inadvertently caused the company’s stock to plummet by $1.3 billion after tweeted she no longer used the app.
In addition to a simpler feed, Vero also promises no advertising. There are options for brands to add a ‘Buy Now’ button to sell products straight from their posts, but they will be charged a transaction fee for doing so. Feeds are also free from any manipulation; users can’t promote posts or game the system to push their content higher – yet.
Who’s behind it?
Most of the spotlight concerning the brains behind Vero has so far fallen on Ayman Hariri, a Lebanese billionaire whose father is the former Prime Minister of Lebanon. With a net-worth of $1.04 billion, Hariri has also been dogged by his role as deputy CEO of construction company Saudi Oger, after it was revealed that workers dismissed following the failure of the business still haven’t been paid, two years on from its collapse.
The other two co-founders are Scott Birnbaum, head of venture capitalism firm Red Sea Ventures, and Motaz M. Nabulsi, a Jordanian film producer who also served as Advisor of Strategic Initiatives at Saudi Oger. As for the team manning the back-end of the app, they’re a mix of international engineers – and all male. Vero’s only female employee listed on the site is their sole Customer Support operative.
Speaking to stylist.co.uk, Hariri explains what prompted the creation of Vero.
“My co-founders and I came into it with a very personal approach, which was, ‘Why are our friends acting the way that they are online, which is incredibly different to the people we know them to be in the real world?’” he says. “[We] set out to build a social network that allowed people to communicate more naturally and be themselves.”
Any problems so far?
Quite a few, actually. Simply put, Vero was not prepared for the sheer volume of users who signed up in such a short amount of time - it went from being downloaded 600,000 times since 2015 when it first launched, to being downloaded 500,000 times per day last weekend. However, given the app has had three years to perfect its interface, it’s surprising that it’s still in beta mode.
My own tinkering with Vero has thrown up a host of issues; lengthy loading times, regular freezing and full-blown outages when the app buckles under the weight of its own popularity. Uploading content can prove to be a real problem; I tried three times to post a picture and was told it had failed. But opening the app the next day revealed two duplicate posts of the photo. Additionally, content from others that appears in your stream mysteriously disappears when you click on their profiles.
Users are also discovering that it’s difficult to delete accounts, although the reasoning for this is quite straightforward, explains Hariri.
“In order to ensure that account deletion requests were genuine, we asked users to request them through the app,” he clarifies. “When we had a smaller user base, we could process them manually. Now that Vero has grown, we will be updating the app to allow users to delete their accounts more easily.”
However, the bugs are already proving to be Vero’s biggest Achilles Heel.
“I would have shared a lot more posts on the app but annoyingly there are a few different glitches that stop me from doing so,” says fashion and travel blogger Charlotte Hole, 24, who has racked up 41,000 followers on her Instagram page @ch32. “I’m also trying to figure out how to follow someone… silly as it sound sounds, it can be pretty confusing!”
Fashion and body positivity blogger Stephanie Yeboah, who posts to 16,1000 Instagram followers as @nerdabouttown, agrees.
“I heard abut Vero after a number of prominent influencers I follow started tweeting about [it] at the same time,” she says. “So far [my experience] has been quite negative. It took me about two days to create a profile and now I can’t add or accept people because the app crashes and shuts down.”
Vero’s team have acknowledged the problems and promised users they will be ironed out in the near future.
“We are working hard to resolve the service interruptions caused by the enormous demand for Vero,” Hariri states. “We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and encouragement we have received as we work to restore uninterrupted service for everyone.”
What do influencers make of it?
In short: they’re intrigued. At the time of writing, the hashtag #vero has been used over 500,000 times on Instagram and many see the app as an exciting alternative to platforms that are falling short of their expectations.
Lifestyle blogger Gabriele Gzimailaite, who has an Instagram following of 70,5000 under the moniker @gabrielegz, sees it as an opportunity to right algorithmic wrongs.
“Instagram is becoming incredibly hard to grow on,” the 24-year-old tells stylist.co.uk. “Posts don’t reach all of our followers anymore which means we have a low engagement rate, [affecting] how much work we get. The algorithm is a big issue for everyone. The first 20 posts [on an Instagram feed] will always be big brands and big accounts. At first I didn’t want to use [Vero] . I didn’t understand it and it was quite buggy because of all the people trying to sign up.”
But the app is slowly winning her around – and she hopes it will push Instagram into reversing unpopular changes.
“I am slowly getting into [Vero] more and more,” Gzimailaite says. “There are still many problems […] that must be due to the amount of people joining but other than that, I think it’s pretty good. It’s quite cool, it’s a mix of Facebook and Instagram. I hope it will scare Instagram a little and [they] will bring back the chronological timeline to make us all happy.”
Charlotte Hole thinks Vero could offer her the opportunity to more easily merge her other platforms.
“[I’m particularly excited] about the fact you can share links! ” she remarks. “It will be great for sharing YouTube links and blog posts more often.”
Hole believes the platform could have a real future – if it can fix its problems.
“I’m just hoping Vero gets the glitches sorted soon,” she says. “[It’s] had a lot of people interested in the past week, so it would be a shame to put them off so soon!”