There’s a new “it network” on the block. People flocked to subscription-based social networking app Vero last week, prompting its servers to shut down. It is currently the top free social networking app on Google Play (with 500,000 downloads) and the iOS App Store, surging ahead of Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.
“We couldn’t have predicted this kind of volume,” Vero Founder Ayman Hariri told Forbes. “We’ve never seen anything like this. We couldn’t prepare for it.”
Vero attributed the reason for the sudden uptick in subscriptions to Instagram’s cosplay community making a decided effort to move off of Instagram and onto Vero. The surge in subscriptions also coincides with Vero’s announcement that the first million subscribers would not have to pay for the service.
Vero is the brainchild of Lebanese billionaire Ayman Hariri, and it’s billed as “true social media.” Vero markets itself as a social app that allows users to socialize the way they would offline. It’s ad-free, doesn’t have any algorithms to alter users’ feeds and says that it won’t mine data the way social networking apps like Facebook do—without advertisers, there’s not much of a point.
Although most other social networking apps started ad-free, they didn’t intend to move towards a paid-subscription model. With Vero, the first million subscribers get access to the app for free, and the rest pay a monthly fee—the price is yet to be disclosed. Although it hasn’t yet hit one million, it is reportedly close.
The app’s content will center around recommendations—a user can recommend movies, books, music and links, which creates a link on the media that prompts users to “buy now.” Users also group connections into categories like “followers,” “acquaintances,” “friends,” and “close friends.” Observers point out that it’s an old idea remarketed since users can already do this on Facebook.
Ayman Hariri is perhaps best known as the brother of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He once had a hand in running construction company Saudi Oger, but now he’s focusing on his social networking app Vero.
Vero partnered with designer Oliver Spencer to show his men’s fashion line on the app, and also partnered with singer Charli XCX in November 2016, publishing a behind-the-scenes look at the video for “After the Afterparty.”
Whether or not Vero will stick around—unlike hopeful Facebook alternatives like Ello—remains to be seen. What’s clear is that people are hungry for an alternative to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as they flock in droves to try the new social media app in town.