You may have heard some buzz recently about Vero, a new social media app that is poised to push Instagram out of the market. Vero attracts users because it doesn’t display ads, doesn’t work according to algorithms and protects users’ privacy more than most social networks.
Vero was launched in 2015 but recently went viral, drawing new interest from Instagram users and others who are looking for a good photo uploading program.
Some of the highlights of Vero include:
Hariri came up with the idea of Vero because he noticed Facebook friends “acting quite differently than how I knew them to be in the real world.. in the real world, we don’t have an audience. We treat different people in our lives differently based on our degrees of intimacy. The real, greatest social network that exists is the one that exists between people in the real world.”
Hariri, a late Facebook adopter, wanted an app that took that difference into account and thus the idea of Vero was born. New users are able to add contacts who have also signed up for the app. They assign their contacts labels such as “friend,” “acquaintance,” “close friend” or “follower.” (The type of label that a user assigns a contact won’t be revealed to that contact.)
Users can then share links music, TV and movie clips, locations, photos, free social casino links, book suggestions, etc with their contacts and within their groups. According to Hariri, the platform will eventually charge a subscription fee but for now, it’s free. The first million users will have a free lifetime membership – that offer created the recent spike in Vero membership. Hariri hasn’t yet decided how much a Vero membership will cost but he says that he believes in “democratizing services like this” – he didn’t elaborate on what that means.
Harari acknowledges that the app has significant bugs. In fact, users have given it a 2.1 rating (out of five stars) at the Apple App Store because of the lag time and bugs. Harari is simultaneously working to iron out the bugs and promoting future growth. He credits the spike in memberships to photography and tattoo enthusiasts who were invited to join communities of like-minded Vero members as well as to a recent Instagram ad campaign
With all the pros of Vero, why isn’t it taking off faster? One of the reason is that it seems to have grown too fast and the technology isn’t keeping up with the number of users. Users of Vero have been reporting major difficulties with posting on the app, uploading photos and – suspiciously – the ability to delete the app.
Vero has been available since 2015 but it recently advertised that the first million users would get the app free for life (after which, new users would be charged a subscription fee). That, together with a concerted effort from the cosplay community on Instagram, created a rush that resulted in a plague of technical issues.
Two controversies are causing concern for Vero investors.
For one thing many people have noticed that a significant percentage of Vero employees seem to be Russian. Given the suspicious about Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election through social media, questions have been raised about whether it’s wise to trust a social media app that has seemingly Russian ties.
A spokesperson for Vero discounted those worries, saying “We are fortunate to work with a team of talented individuals from across the world. Like nearly every global technology company, that includes developers based in Russia, plus talent across the US, France, Germany and Eastern Europe.”
The other controversy seems to have more of a chance of impacting Vero’s chances of success. It revolves around the company’s CEO, Ayman Hariri, a Lebanese billionaire who is the half-brother of the country’s current Prime Minister and the son of a former Prime Minister of Lebanon.
Before launching Vero, Hariri helped run his family’s now-shuttered construction business which is based in Saudi Arabia. Following the 2005 assassination of his father, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, Ayman Hariri ran Saudi Oger, his family’s Saudi Arabia-based construction company. The company closed in 2017 after employees rioted over missed paychecks.
Harari commented that “It’s unfortunate what happened at the company.” He pointed out that he had already left his role at the company when the riots occurred and had no part in depriving the workers of their salaries. “It was a complicated situation of having people not receive salaries and not be happy. It is the furthest thing that we wanted or could have imagined.”
How Hariri is turning to technology and says that solving problems through technology is his passion. He attended Georgetown University where he majored in computer science. In 2001 he joined with venture capitalist Scott Birnbaum to launch an identity management software startup called Epok. Birnbaumis also a Vero cofounder.
It remains to be seen whether Vero will be the next Big Thing in social media or whether it will go the way of failed social networks such as Peach, Digg, Friendster and MySpace.
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