Vero Hands-On: Is This the New Instagram?

A few days ago I saw a friend of mine post a screenshot of her bio in a new app. And because I need to try every social media service (from Allo to Peach, I've been there) I asked, "what is that?"

And that's how I found out about Vero, a new social network that's experiencing a surge of popularity.

What Is Vero?

A social network exclusive to Android and iOS mobile devices (ala Snapchat), Vero gives users a way to share stuff they like, and it's dropped into a vertical feed, just like Instagram.

What makes Vero different?

Vero is simply more colorful, and overly designed, making it look like the boutique version of Instagram. Think of it as the hipster alter-ego of the popular social network.

Vero also lets you share a wider variety of things than just photos and video, with post options including links, music, movies and TV, books and places. If you've ever wanted to connect your Instagram post to the song you're recommending, and noticed that Instagram only supports links in bios, you get why this is a good idea.

Vero also allows for four levels of friendship connections, which is how you can select who can see posts. So, instead of simply having a private account, you can share things within the following four groups: Close Friends, Friends, Acquaintances and Followers.

Personally, my favorite part of Vero is that the service claims to not use any algorithms. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have each screwed up the timeline in their own ways, making it hard to see posts in real time without them rearranging the order or filling your screen with stuff it thinks you might like. News feed outrage has gotten so bad that it's led to an ad blocker called Feedless, that removes the feed from social media sites on your phone.

Why do we need a hipster version of Instagram?

Well, I don't know about your parents, but one of mine is on Instagram, and every time they Like one of my posts, I'm reminded how the thing I'm using has become completely mainstream. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents, but this is an inevitable moment in the history of any social media service.

Instagram isn't the cool new thing anymore, and it's time for upstarts to try and take the throne.

How will Vero stay ad-free?

Right now, Vero's promoting itself as the anti-Instagram by offering an ad-free experience, and claims there won't be any data mining.

This will be possible because of two reasons: the first is that Vero will eventually charge users to join. If you look at Vero.co, the company's website, you'll get a hint about this, one of the images in its carousel says that Vero is "Free for the first million users."

According to a story in its press section, Vero "will eventually cost a few dollars a year, but is currently free to the first million people who download it." Also, companies are already using Vero as a marketplace, as a book of photos taken of the musician Prince is already on sale. 

On Feb. 28, Vero announced it hit the 1,000,000 registered users cap, but will not start charging for new subscribers. Citing "service interruptions," a note from Vero on its site states "we are extending that offer to all new users until further notice."

Why is Vero not working on my phone? What's a server side error?

A possible sign of its early success, Vero is kind of broken right now. Trying to test the service, I couldn't post anything, and kept getting a "Server side service timeout" error, accompanied by the request to "Please try again later."

A Vero post from Clay Enos, a photographer and "Vero Ambassador," notes that "Vero has gone from around 600,000 lifetime downloads in the App Store and Google Play, to more than 500,000 in a day." In a nutshell, Vero didn't expect this much traffic.

Vero is almost proud of this, letting you know in the email you get upon signing up that "We are still building things, and expect to have occasional days of service outages and possibly even some dramatic changes."

Does Vero have a chance?

If Vero can get its server situation up and fixed soon, it might make it past the winter. The app is currently holding the #1 slot in the top free apps chart on the iOS App store (download link), and it's number 3 on the free app chart in the Google Play store (download link). So, the popularity is there, but we've seen this before, with Peach and Allo.

If Vero is still popular a month from now, you'll know it's survived the first major test, wherein users discover if it's actually worth keeping on their phone after having downloaded it.

But, once it climbs over 1 million users, Vero may have a hard time surviving. If we've learned anything about apps, it's that people love free a lot more than they love to pay.

When I finally heard back from my friend, whose post introduced me to Vero, she was already exhausted by the bugginess, and seemed to have given up. She summed up her thoughts by saying "It looks really pretty, but yeah. At worst, people give up on it after a month, and it dies like so many other alternative social medias."

What is #DeleteVero?

A report from Taylor Lorenz at The Daily Beast shows that Vero's users are already angry and ready to quit. While some are trying to dig up dirt on Vero founder and CEO, Ayman Hariri, starting with claims that Hariri's supported Human Trafficking and that Hariri and his brother Saad are close with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

His work as deputy chief executive officer and vice chairman of Saudi Oger, his family’s construction company, which has since closed, is also being scrutinized. Reportedly, during Hariri’s time at the company, it received more than 31,000 complaints of non-payment for wages, leading the Saudi Arabian government to give food and basic living supplies to those workers the company reportedly left in the dust.

Other users are simply freaked out about Vero's terms of service. The fine print grants Vero the rights to use, reproduce, modify and publish all content you publish to Vero, including your "name, voice and/or likeness."

How do you delete your Vero account?

If you've already deleted the app from your phone, go here and fill out a request. Otherwise, tap the profile icon in the top menu, tap the ? button, tap "Choose a department," tap "Delete my account," fill in the notes field and tap submit.

Annoyingly, both of these methods only submit a request, and you'll be waiting for Vero to follow through.