After reaching 3 million users and topping app store charts for the last week, Vero has divided the planet - some calling it an ad-free haven & the future of social media, whereas others label it a flash in the pan.
So which is it? Or is it something else entirely - simply a niche social network? And we have one extremely important question to answer… Settle in, dear reader, as this social media marketer by day and blogger by night finds out whether the future human can expect to be keenly setting up a Vero account.
So what is Vero?
I won’t harp on this explainer for too long, as too many tech news sites have done their own pieces and there’s no need to retread old ground.
Simply put, Vero is a subscription-based social network without ads and news feed-based algorithms. A one-finger salute to the Facebooks and Twitters of the world - getting rid of the social imbalance and corporate interests in favour of true social connections (as is made obvious by the translation of “Vero”).
Flick through their manifesto and you will discover more of the reasons behind their mission (and their almost bizarre addiction to using capital letters). It taps into the frustrations that many people have had about the current crop of social networks - the mixed up news feed controlled by algorithms, the over-saturation of ads, the terrible quality of some branded content.
Vero appears to bypass this with a simple chronological timeline, the content on which you see is controlled by your categorisation of connections, working with brands directly to set them up on the network, and making users pay a subscription fee to join (although if you join now, it’s free for life).
What is it like to use?
Bypassing the initial app issues early adopters had of not actually being able to post anything, the app is relatively straightforward. Tapping on the home screen icon takes you straight to the newsfeed, on which is (as mentioned before) a simply chronological timeline.
The social network doesn’t try to guess what you do and doesn’t want to see via an ever-present algorithm. Content isn’t curated. You just see all the posts from your connections in the order they were posted (suck it, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram).
When adding people or accepting their requests, you can categorise them under one of three labels - close friend, friend or acquaintance. This gives you an almost Google+ circle-esque control over the content you see.
For more content, you want to go over to the search screen - where you will see some of the aggregated brand content and find what is possible on Vero - from shopping experiences that don’t require you to leave the app, to custom-populating links with whatever imagery you wish.
While all of these functions are a bit all-over-the-shop at the moment, leading to a UI that is easy to get lost finding your way around. But with further updates, a cleaner background (rather than the blurred stock photography) and a clearer array of menu options, it could be a fun app to use.
Now, there have been two big stories that have soured consumer - one that is a nothing burger of worry, and another that is a real cause for concern.
Firstly, let’s dive into the Terms & Conditions. Many have read and caused an outcry of panic at the following portion:
“..a limited, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, list information regarding, translate, distribute, syndicate, publicly perform, publicly display, make derivative works of, or otherwise use your User Content.”
Well, allow me to put any worries to rest and say this isn’t the first time you’ve agreed to giving away your content ownership. Have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account? Yep, you agreed to near-identical terms. Looking past the terrifying adjectives, what you’ve really agreed to is the social network’s right to show your content, not own your content. Calm down.
Now, for the other story that is sure to raise a few eyebrows - the shady history of Vero’s head, a notorious violator of labour rights. As per The Daily Beast:
“Before beginning his social media escapades, [CEO Ayman] Hariri served as deputy chief executive officer and vice chairman of his family’s now defunct construction company, Saudi Oger, a business that was the source of most of his family’s wealth [...] under Hariri’s watch over 31,000 complaints of non payment for wages were filed against the Saudi Oger.
The company was so negligent that in some cases the Saudi Arabian government had to step in and provide food and basic living supplies to workers spurned by the company.”
As said company shut down in July, leaving thousands of workers unpaid, we’re left with a lot of questions… And the only place that’s disproved is Ayman’s own Wikipedia page - edited suspiciously to included extra information just after the story broke.
But bad news aside…
Is this a social network set to take the world by storm? Simple - no.
From the frustration aimed at other networks and their boneheaded design moves, many people are looking for something new.
Vero just isn’t your answer for two reasons.
One - there is no real USP. Being ad-free and subscription-based doesn’t count. I’m talking about the ground-up functionality (Twitter’s 280 characters or Snapchat’s image-first communication). Underneath Vero’s bells and whistles lies a pretty simple social network setup, which in a time when personality and individuality is everything to a social network, just doesn’t stack up - especially not for an undisclosed monthly fee (anywhere above £1.99 p/m will be a deal breaker for many).
Two - and to answer an original question, it’s just not a great time to launch a social network.
At best, this could be Ello if it pivots into a core strength. The branded content experience works great on Vero’s search page, so just focus on that after you’ve had your flirt with the whole social network idea. But if the team are married to this idea, I am confident it won’t see out 2018 in tact.
In fact, let’s make a bet. If I’m wrong, and this social network goes on to succeed with a nicely sized audience and rockets past 2018, I will go live on my Twitch stream and sing a song of your choice - by a poll that will be posted on Twitter before I do so.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.