Vero: can the ad-free 'true social' app sustain its recent gains?

Vero: can the ad-free 'true social' app sustain its recent gains?

Touted as the 'new Instagram,' social media sharing app Vero has raised eyebrows by climbing to the number one spot on the Google Play Store and surging up the rankings on the Apple App Store.

We took a look at Vero to find out the truth behind the buzz.

Redefining the social network

At the heart of what Vero are trying to do, according to their manifesto, is to return the control of social media to its users rather than advertisers.

This paves the way for a return to pure chronological sharing with posts appearing in the order they are created with no algorithmic interference. This, according to the creators, means an honest, natural experience more closely aligned to what social media was always meant to be about.

With no advertising there is no corresponding need to collect vast amount of data on users. This will also go down well with privacy advocates and those who are just tired of being treated as 'demographics.'

Vero's business model is based mainly on user subscription fees but these have not been detailed yet. In the meantime, the app is free.

Companies (and individuals) can pay for a 'Buy Now' button and sell goods via their posts but they won't be able to pay to boost or place their posts. This function seems aimed at niche marketplaces because it is hard to see why mainstream companies would want to pay for the benefit of targeting a small, unfiltered and mainly ad-adverse audience.

High marks for user experience

Technical issues aside (more on that below), Vero ticks most of the boxes in terms of aesthetics and usability. This is presumably one reason why many of the early adopters have been from visual and artistic communities (e.g. cosplay and tattoo fans).

Unlike Facebook's complex privacy settings, Vero also makes it easy to (secretly) segment people into close friends, friends, acquaintances and followers and to restrict what's visible accordingly. It is clear to see why users would feel a bit more relaxed about sharing content. For example, they will know that only those people they have pre-selected as close friends will see something private aimed at that group.

Vero also allows easy selection of the type of content you want to share. For example, by clicking the camera icon you can edit photographs, add filters and even create entire photo albums before posting.

The headphones icon enables you to share songs which recipients can then listen to on Apple iTunes. There are similar icons for links (a chain), movies (a clapperboard), places (a map pin) and books (a book!). Being able to share everything in one app is another bonus.

One really novel feature on Vero is the ability to receive only certain types of media from particular friends on your news feed. For example, we all have friends we love but who have a dire sense in music. With Vero we can simply uncheck the headphones icon on their profile and though we will continue to see their photos, movie reviews and the rest, we will never hear another music track from them again.

The search function on Vero is also handy with all content stored and searchable by hashtags or keywords. There is also a chat app (but presumably no chat bots!)

Main criticisms

The main (non-political) criticisms of Vero are its recent server crash and trust issues over its Ts and Cs.

The crash is the main cause for concern. Unable to cope with its meteoric rise in popularity, Vero's servers failed and ever since there have been serious technical problems with users sometimes unable to even sign up or post. As a result, Vero have extended their offer of free membership (originally for the first million users only) until further notice.

Although it may seem natural for an app to experience problems due to traffic spikes, it does pose questions about the planning and funding behind Vero's launch. Most forward-thinking companies expecting an increase in traffic would have probably migrated their systems to the cloud and been ready to scale up. Does this suggest an underlying cash flow issue?

Looking at user reviews on Google Play, there are now more one-star ratings than five-star ratings with many people reporting sign-up and posting issues.

Criticisms of the Ts and Cs on the other hand seem to have been largely overhyped. Yes, a look through the fine print does seem to grant Vero a lot of control over user content and this has angered some, particularly artists using the platform who are naturally sensitive over issues of ownership.

However, Vero quickly pointed out that the Ts and Cs are standard fare for social media platforms and designed purely to allow content to be shared on the platform. They went on to clarify that they claim no ownership over content and would never sell it to third parties. This seems to be a fair response from the creators but perhaps something to keep an eye on.

The Verdict on Vero

Vero has definitely found a unique offering which caters for those social media users fed up of being bombarded by advertising and their profiles mined for data. With an attractive, well-organised interface and some neat filtering options, the app itself is certainly capable of holding its own.

The big question lies in Vero's ability to sustain itself in the long-term. Without advertising revenue to support it, can the app really attract enough subscribers to finance the infrastructure on which it runs? It is difficult to say without knowing exactly how 'small' the subscription fee will be. But if bugs and crashes aren't fixed soon, Vero's fanatical following could soon be off chasing the next bright, shiny object.

Topic: Social media

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