Every once in a while, a new social media platform emerges, promising to bring about a revolution in online networking and usher in the the downfall of the axis of evil (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Remember Ello? or Peach? Or this, the un-googlable social app that allowed users to share exactly one link a day? All promised to change social networking as we know it, and all failed to actually do it (although Ello has at least one employee left, because I keep getting their goddamn reminder emails).
Today's upstart social network is Vero, an app that was launched in 2015 by Lebanese billionaire Ayman Hariri, movie financier Motaz Nabulsi, and venture capitalist Scott Birnbaum, but finally seems to be catching on.
Like all good apps trying to make it big in the #resistance Vero, which means "truth" in Esperanto, has an all caps manifesto. It reads, in part:
PEOPLE NATURALLY SEEK CONNECTION.
THAT’S WHY ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKS HAVE BEEN SO WIDELY ADOPTED OVER THE PAST TEN YEARS.
THEY OFFERED THE PROMISE OF CONSTANT CONNECTION AND THE MEANS TO KEEP IN TOUCH WITH FRIENDS AND TO SHARE WHAT’S HAPPENING IN OUR LIVES.
BUT AS TIME PASSED, AN IMBALANCE BEGAN TO FORM BETWEEN THE INTERESTS OF THE PLATFORMS AND THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE USERS.
AND A FALSE SENSE OF CONNECTION LEFT US LONELIER THAN EVER.
IN REAL LIFE, PEOPLE ARE NEVER PRESENTED WITH A ONE SIZE FITS ALL AUDIENCE. WE SHARE DIFFERENT THINGS WITH DIFFERENT PEOPLE.
MOST SOCIAL NETWORKS REDUCE EVERYONE TO A FRIEND OR A FOLLOWER. THIS ENCOURAGES US TO ONLY SHARE THE PARTS OF OUR LIVES WE THINK ARE THE MOST INTERESTING.
WHEN YOU CAN CONTROL WHO SEES WHAT, YOU CAN BEHAVE IN A WAY THAT IS MORE NATURAL, WHICH WE BELIEVE ENDS UP BEING BETTER FOR YOU.
SO WE DECIDED TO CREATE SOMETHING MORE AUTHENTIC.
WE CREATED A SOCIAL NETWORK THAT LETS YOU BE YOURSELF. HENCE THE NAME VERO. MEANING TRUTH.
WE MADE OUR BUSINESS MODEL SUBSCRIPTION-BASED.
MAKING OUR USERS OUR CUSTOMERS, NOT ADVERTISERS.
THE GREATEST SOCIAL NETWORK IS THE ONE THAT ALREADY EXISTS BETWEEN PEOPLE.
VERO'S MISSION IS TO MAKE IT AVAILABLE ONLINE.
Big promises! While Vero is free for the first million users, they says that instead of making money via ads, they're going to have a "small annual fee" for users, and no algorithm deciding what does or does not show up in your feed.
To its credit, the app is very clean looking, your parents aren't on it, and it (presumably) hasn't been infiltrated by Macedonian teenagers spreading stories about Hillary Clinton's satanic baby-killing cult, at least not yet. But will it be the answer to America's Facebook problem? Probably not. We've seen plenty of attempts before. Plus, if Vero does become a success, Facebook will probably swoop in and ruin it, just like it did to Instagram, WhatsApp, and democracy.