If you’re a big Instagram fan, you may have noticed a bunch of people you follow talking about Vero lately. But what is Vero?
Vero is a new social media app trying to take on Instagram, Facebook and more. It’s ad-free and organized chronologically, as opposed to Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm-driven feeds. It’s also gaining steam just as many influential Instagram users are complaining about a drop in “likes” and other engagement in recent weeks.
Vero is the latest in a long line of would-be Instagram and Facebook killers, including the likes of Ello, Mastodon, Peach, and, most recently, Sarahah. But many of those apps faded into obscurity not long after first appearing on the scene. Facebook, the $500-billion-plus company that also owns Instagram, is unlikely to cede any ground to upstart competitors any time soon.
Does Vero have what it takes to stick around? Here’s what you need to know about Vero and what makes it different from Facebook, Instagram and so on.
What is Vero?
Vero is a new social media app boasting an ad-free and “more authentic” user experience. The app takes its name form the Italian word for “truth.”
The image- and video-focused app is similar to Instagram, drawing the attention of photographers, videographers and social media influencers popular there. It’s also drawing fans because posts are displayed in chronological order, instead of being sorted by an algorithm like the one Instagram recently adopted.
Vero officially launched in 2015, according to Slate. But the app is gaining popularity over the past couple of weeks thanks to word of mouth among hardcore social media users. It’s now the second most popular app in Apple’s App Store and sits at the top of Google Play’s free apps chart.
Does Vero cost money?
Vero previously said that its first million users will get free access to the app, then it would introduce a subscription fee. But after the app recently passed the million-user mark, Vero announced it would extend its “free for life” offer due to “service interruptions” until further notice. (Vero has had some technical trouble over the past several days, likely due to the sudden surge in interest.)
Vero has not yet said how much any future subscription plan might cost. But the company says that information will be available soon.
Vero’s subscription-based business model is meant to allow the app to remain ad-free, according to Vero. In its manifesto, Vero argues that its customers are users rather than advertisers. By contrast, most social media companies like Facebook and Instagram make money via advertising.
Who is the Vero CEO?
Vero’s CEO is Ayman Hariri, also a co-founder of the company. Hariri is a billionaire and the son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. According to a Vero spokesperson, Ayman Hariri was living in the United Sates at the time of the incident and afterwards went back to Saudi Arabia to support his family.
Ayman Hariri previously served as deputy CEO and deputy chairman of Saudi Oger, a construction company founded by his father. There were reports of Saudi Oger workers going unpaid and left stranded in cramped living quarters with little food money, water, or medical care, per Reuters. The Saudi Arabian government stepped in and the company shut down in 2017 due to “mismanagement,” according to Bloomberg.
A Vero spokesperson said Hariri left Saudi Oger in 2013 “to pursue other initiatives” and since then had no operational, management or board oversight of the company and was not involved in any decision making.
What’s the controversy surround Vero?
Putting aside the CEO’s past, several people have pointed out that some of Vero’s employees appear to be Russian. Given Russia’s attempts to use social media to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, some are questioning whether it’s wise to trust a social media app with potential Russian ties.
“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,” a spokesperson for Vero told TIME.
Others, meanwhile, have pointed out the lack of gender diversity on Vero’s team.
With these factors in mind, some people are already trying to delete their Vero accounts.
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