Vero is the anti-Facebook social network everyone is talking about

Technology Editor
Yahoo Finance
Vero is the anti-Facebook social network that’s blowing up on iOS and Android.
Vero is the anti-Facebook social network that’s blowing up on iOS and Android.

Just when you thought there were enough social networks to distract you from your family, friends and work, there’s a new app in town. Except this one isn’t exactly new. Vero, which was originally released in 2015, has spiked on Apple’s App Store, jumping to the top trending spot and becoming a phenomenon out of virtually nowhere.

The spike in popularity began on Feb. 22 when an influx of users from the cosplay and tattoo communities began jumping to the app. So far, the app has been downloaded more then 500,000 times, according to the Google Play Store. Numbers for iOS downloads aren’t available.

It would appear that even Vero wasn’t ready for the sudden spike in popularity. Every time I used the app I was met with some kind of server error. That’s to be expected, though, considering the number of people that are likely signing up for the service in such a short period of time. The company said it’s working to improve server stability as soon as possible.

Available for Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Android and Apple’s (AAPL) iOS, Vero promises to be a kind of anti-Facebook. It’s manifesto — yes, it has a manifesto — lays out the reasons for the app’s existence as a blow-by-blow repudiation of how other social media networks do business.

Vero says its a true social network, though we’re not quite sure what that means.
Vero says its a true social network, though we’re not quite sure what that means.

Unlike Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) or Snapchat (SNAP), Vero doesn’t support itself via advertising. Instead, it functions as a subscription-based service. The first million users, however, can sign up for free. Vero said it will release information about its pricing and user count in the coming days, but I was able to sign up without issue, which means the app likely hasn’t hit that 1 million user threshold.

Co-founded in 2013 by Ayman Hariri, the Lebanese billionaire and son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, Vero, which is Latin for “true,” says its decision to go with a subscription-based model was driven by a desire to ensure that users are the company’s customers rather than advertisers.

The social network says this will allow it to deliver the “best social experience instead of trying to find new ways to monetize our users’ behavior or tricking them back into the app with notifications.”

As with most social networks, Vero lets you upload images, videos, links, and more.
As with most social networks, Vero lets you upload images, videos, links, and more.

Vero allows you to categorize your friends into three different categories: Close Friend, Friend and Acquaintance. Vero says this allows users to better customize which audiences see their posts. So if you don’t want your acquaintances seeing photos of you partying last weekend, you can set the privacy to Close Friends and Friends. Your connections won’t see how you categorize them.

Vero’s feed is built around what your connections post and isn’t manipulated with algorithms, meaning you’ll get a true view of what your friends are posting. But it also means that if you have one friend who happens to be a particularly prolific poster, and we all know one, they’ll likely eat up your entire feed.

The company is also very open with the kind of personal information it collects and why. That’s seemingly a hit, since Facebook had come under fire in the past for how and why it collects user data.

Vero users can create posts ranging from photos, links and music, to movies and TV shows, books and places. You can also create collections of those items based on what you follow.

Despite its new-found fame in the trending section of the App Store, the app is still light on users. When I signed up, it searched my entire contact list and only managed to find five other people who use the app. And despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find a Kardashian or Jenner anywhere on the app.

Of course, Vero could always just be a flash in the pan, as many other social networks were before it. Remember Peach, or Google+, or Ello? Heck, even Vine, which still enjoys a cult following, folded four years after Twitter took it over in 2012. The point is, social networks seem to come and go. And for every new Snapchat that takes off, there seems to be a slew of others that simply never gain critical mass.

Will Vero become a true mainstay? We’ll have to wait to find out.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.
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