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What Is Vero? The Overnight Instagram-Killer, Explained for Non-Teenagers

Vero, a years-old social-media platform, is blowing up this week. Photo: Vero

The App Store is littered with the ghosts of “It” apps past. Ello. Peach. Sarahah. This week, there’s a new contender on the block: Vero. Launched in 2015, Vero is blowing up right now. Why, you ask? Great question.

What is Vero?

Vero is a little bit Facebook, but without the ads. It’s a little bit Instagram, but without the algorithm. It’s a little bit YouTube, but without the Paul Brothers. And it’s a little bit Twitter, but without the Nazis. (Though just give it some time on that last one.) You can share pictures, text, videos, and pretty much any other content your heart desires. Vero touts itself as an “authentic” social-media platform. The name, Vero, means truth in Esperanto.

Wait, it’s been around since 2015? Why is it blowing up this week?

Sadly, there’s no satisfying answer. Most likely, it’s some combination of everybody getting fed up with Instagram’s annoying algorithmically sorted feed, and network effects (one person converts a bunch of friends who also have a bunch of friends). But beyond that? Blame global warming! Blame the unending winter! Blame El Niño! Who knows! But downloads are up significantly according to App Annie, and it’s currently the No. 1 free download in the Apple App Store.

What makes it different from Facebook or Instagram?

For starters, there are no ads. (Though, once upon a time, that was Facebook’s deal, too.) Users are given four labels — acquaintance, friend, close friend, and follower — that they can assign to people they connect with on the platform. Each time a user shares a post, they can decide how big of an audience — like just “close friends” — they want to see said post. And, unlike Instagram, there’s no algorithm. You see things in chronological order, meaning if you want to see everything posted since the last time you logged on, you’ll just scroll back until the content looks familiar.

Is Vero safe?

Maybe. You have to provide a name, email address, and cell-phone number to join. The name can be fake, though the cell-phone number must be real so that you can confirm your account. “Although we don’t force people to use their real names, we encourage people to present themselves as they do in real life,” Vero explains in its manifesto. That should be a little worrisome to anybody who has ever been impersonated online. (Impersonating another person is technically prohibited under Vero’s TOS, but still.) Vero says it will never share your email address or phone number, and that the only data it collects has to do with metrics to track “the number of visits to Vero and the general health of the platform.” If you want more details on Vero’s Terms and Conditions, we’ve got an explainer here.

Are any of my friends on it already? Facebook’s got its problems, but all of my friends are already there.

If your friends are early adopter types (read: teenagers) or tech journalists … probably. If your friends aren’t … probably not. Vero’s still in pretty early stages.

Will this cost me anything?

Not yet. It’s free to download Vero and make an account. That will change in the future, CNBC reported back in 2017. The app — which is ad-free — plans to charge users a subscription fee of “a few dollars.” If you are among the first million people to join the platform, it will always be free for you. Though that comment from Vero co-founder Ayman Hariri is a year old, so it could still be a while before Vero is out of beta and coming for your credit card.

Fine, fine. I’ll give it a go. I downloaded the app, but now I can’t get the dang thing to work.

Vero’s sudden surge in popularity has been too much for the app to handle, causing many users to report issues. The platform’s Twitter account is basically a customer-service hotline devoted to apologizing for these problems while Vero works to catch up with demand. (I spent several hours this morning trying to log on to no avail, and got a lot of “Hold Tight” and “Please Try Again Later” notifications.) Which they should probably do soon if they don’t want people to jump ship before the good ship Vero ever has a chance to set sail.

What Is Vero, Where Can I Download It, and Why Should I?