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Is it Time to Give Vero a Second Chance?

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Photographers and other artists have been complaining about Instagram, and social media in general, for years... is Vero finally the solution?


8/21/2022 - New section added to address (resurfacing) claims that Vero steals user content for their own use and profit; updates provided in the "What I don't like about Vero section.


As Vero has seen a sudden resurgence, I wanted to take a closer look (again) at claims of controversy surrounding its Founder and CEO and share what I like and dislike about the app in general.


Contents

Continued below

 

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The Current State of Social Media


Back in 2018, Vero had a brief moment of glory as I and many others jumped on the bandwagon for the relatively new social media platform. I saw a couple people posting about it back then and, after checking it out, decided to give it a try.


It was fantastic for a few months (and once they developers ironed out some of the bugs and overcame server issues with the influx of new traffic). Unfortunately, by the end of 2018, the app was all but abandoned by many users as people eventually drifted back to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


A screenshot of an Instagram post from photographer Nick Page, announcing he is once again using VERO
One of the many photographers back on Vero

I tried to keep the dream alive well into 2019 but, eventually, I, too, threw in the towel as it had basically become a ghost town. Which was a real shame as the experience on Vero was far "purer" than any of the major platforms.


Fast forward to 2022: Instagram is a dumpster fire of suggested posts, ads, and all-too-often cringey reels, and the reach of photos has fallen (further) off a cliff. On any given post, I'm lucky to reach 5-10% of my followers, which has destroyed any sense of community and organic, authentic engagement.


A screenshot of Instagram showing the poor reach of photo posts compared to reels
Forced to use reels to reach people on Instagram

Twitter - from a photographer perspective - made it through the turmoil of NFT shilling in 2021 and was a moderately enjoyable experience, but now it, too, is getting flooded with suggested tweets, accounts to follow, endless ads (including in the comments!), and they seem hellbent on shoving everything your connections are liking, commenting on, or following, to the point where I see more political and societal drama than anything else.


Facebook is, well... Facebook. I finally ditched the mobile app a couple months ago when I bought a new phone, and when I hop on via my computer it's with the benefit of Social Fixer to filter out as much drama as possible. That's made it more enjoyable, and I've even seen better engagement and community around photography on my personal page recently but, from a business perspective, I'm about to just delete my page as they've continued to suppress non-paid posts to a shameful degree.


A screenshot of a Twitter feed showing posts from accounts not followed by the user
Twitter showing nothing I actually follow

And let's be honest, enough has come out about the Facebook and Instagram parent company, Meta, and some of the despicable things they've done in regard to sharing data or targeting specific demographics with certain types of content and so on, that a lot of people are probably second-guessing their use of the platform (if not for photography, I'd have dropped Facebook and Instagram years ago).


Then, about a week ago, I saw another photographer share their Vero account in an Instagram story. Then, another did so.


A screenshot of Instagram, showing a post from photographer Adam Gibbs where he expresses frustration with Instagram, and shares that he is back on VERO
Adam Gibbs preaching truth about Instagram

I had already been toying with the idea of giving Vero a try again, and that was all the urging I needed to log back into my old account and knock off the cobwebs. Lo and behold, I found several others doing the same, and then more joined (or rejoined), and more... and I was once again thoroughly enjoying the platform.


In the past six days, my following has just about doubled, as has the number of accounts I'm following on Vero.

 
 

What is Vero?


If you head to Vero.co, you'll soon see their taglines around experiencing "smarter social," and their mantra of "optimized for connection, not addiction, putting you in a total control." This has been fairly consistent over the years as they've worked to differentiate themselves from their algorithm and ad-driven competitors.


At its core, Vero is heavily centered around creators, art, and entertainment, and users that either want to share or peruse that type of content. You can share high-quality photos and videos (up to five minutes in length for unverified accounts, or two hours for verified users), links, music, books, and more.


A screenshot of the VERO website
The Vero website

You cannot share a post that is text-only. Everything is centered around contributing some type of visual or auditory content.


The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android, and a new desktop app can now be downloaded for Mac and Windows. The experience is fairly well optimized for every screen size, wrapped in a clean, distraction-free user interface.


Currently, the app is 100% free to use, although that will apparently change at some point in the future (although current users will be grandfathered in for free use for life, per previous comments from the founder). I delve into this aspect of the platform a bit more down below.

 
 

The Controversy Around Vero


Soon after Vero caught on fire for that brief time in 2018, articles and posts on Instagram and Facebook started sharing seemingly dark details about Vero's Founder and CEO, Ayman Hariri. Before long, the hashtag "DeleteVero" was trending. Now that the app is bubbling back into social media awareness, many of the same claims and memes are also making a reappearance.


I want to be clear: I do not know the truth. All I can do, like anyone else, is try to dig into the available information and make my own determination. For transparency, I've probably spent about five hours trying to research the various claims made about Mr. Hariri, from 2018 when they first came to light, and now in 2022 as I've gathered sources and any new information for this blog post.


Before the controversy around Mr. Hariri arose, there was another claim of nefariousness surrounding Vero: several of the platform's developers are based in Russia (it's unclear if that's still the case four years later). Much like the concerns over TikTok having ties to the Chinese government, this raised alarm bells for many, and quickly became a rallying cry against the app.


A screenshot of a 2018 tweet regarding the controversy that VERO True Social used Russian developers
A 2018 Tweet about the Vero controversy

Mr. Hariri responded with the following in an interview with TIME:


“At the end of the day, where people are from is really not how anybody should judge anyone,” Hariri says. “The people that I work with are incredibly talented, dedicated, honest people that really care about the user experience and developing something that has meaning and is well thought out. There’s a tremendous amount of care that pours into what we’re doing. And so it’s completely irrelevant where they’re from. What’s important is the work they do and their commitment to creating a real online social network and not an online network that takes advantage of the fact that people like to be social with one another.”


Vero employs developers around the world, just like many other companies in this day and age. Having a subset of developers based in Russia is not, in and of itself, a damning quality.


From a Forbes Middle East article: "Although Vero is registered in New York, Hariri and his team of 30 people are dispersed between the U.S., France, Russia, the U.K. and Italy."


Whether this is a deal breaker for you personally is something only you can decide.


It wasn't long before the flames of controversy grew even hotter, though, as claims around Mr. Hariri's former company started to surface.


A meme from 2018 claiming to share damning information about the founder and CEO of VERO True Social
Another 2018 meme about the Vero CEO

There's no sugar coating the assertions that Mr. Hariri's former company, Saudi Oger, a Saudi construction firm (defunct since 2017) that was headquartered in Riyadh, left thousands of migrant workers stranded without pay or basic human necessities. If true, and if Mr. Hariri was responsible, they are extremely incriminating, and sickening.


The basic facts surrounding what happened seem to be undisputed. Prior to its failure, the company did neglect to pay workers starting in November 2015. What's less clear, based on the research I've tried to conduct, is the extent to which migrant workers were impacted, and whether they were truly abandoned in the Saudi desert, and I've struggled to confirm whether Mr. Hariri had any involvement (or was even attached to the company by that point in time).


In a July 2017 article from Gulf Business, announcing the closure of the company, it was stated that around 6,000 foreign workers were in the process of being transferred to other companies, but nothing is said that confirms or denies the claims of workers being abandoned in employee camps. An article from the prior month reported that the firm had been ordered by Saudi Arabia's Executive Court to pay wages owed, to the tune of $800 million.


A screenshot of a Forbes.com report stating Ayman Hariri left Saudi Oger in 2013, before founding VERO
It appears Mr. Hariri left well before issues arose

Aside from poorly sourced claims on Wikipedia, I have been unable to find any reputable reports regarding the actual living conditions for the workers as the company's financial downfall grew.


What's more, there's at least somewhat compelling evidence that Ayman Hariri had already left the company well before those offenses are said to have taken place. Per the same Forbes Middle East article I referenced previously, Mr. Hariri left Saudi Oger in 2013 "and sold his shares the following year to devote himself to Vero." The first reports of unpaid wages date to November 2015, at least two years after his departure, and more one year after he fully divested from the company in July 2014.


It seems pretty clear that Mr. Hariri was no longer tied to Saudi Oger when the confirmed - and the claimed - atrocities took place, but Gizmodo raised further questions based on a Vero press release from February 2016 that stated Mr. Hariri was "Vice Chairman and Deputy CEO of Saudi Oger." The evidence points to the press release stating as such was an error but, once again, I've found it almost impossible to truly confirm one way or the other.


An image of the certification of divestiture of Ayman Hariri from Saudi Oger in 2014
The 2014 certification of divestiture from Saudi Oger

I lean towards his lack of direct involvement based on articles and available evidence, although I certainly reserve the right to change my mind should I find anything that confirms otherwise. What I feel is the most compelling argument in favor of the "not involved" opinion is an official document, dated July 2014, showing his divestiture of shares from the company.

 
 

Is Vero Stealing User Content?

Section added 8/21/2022 as these claims are starting to make an appearance again


As more and more photographers and other artists continue to join, or move back to, Vero, and share their accounts while encouraging others to do the same, the same claims continue to be made as were making the rounds in 2018.


In addition to the concerns around the CEO that I've just addressed, another argument that quickly started driving a #deletevero campaign four years ago was that Vero's terms of service essentially gave them the right to steal user content for their own use and profit, resulting in memes such as this one:


A meme claiming VERO True Social steals user content for profit
Is Vero profiting off user content?

Sounds scary, right? You can't have a meme go viral, after all, without triggering a strong emotional response.


But what do the actual Vero Terms of Use state? As of today, August 21, 2022 (emphasis Vero's):


User Content Ownership and License

Some areas of the Service allow Users to post or provide content such as profile information, videos, images, music, comments, questions, and other content or information (any such materials a User submits, posts, displays, or otherwise makes available on the Service is referred to as “User Content”). We claim no ownership rights over User Content created by you.


As between you and Vero, you retain any and all right, title and interest in and to THE User Content you create, post, or otherwise make available through the Service. We claim no ownership rights over your User Content.


In accordance with your choice of the privacy settings offered by the Service, by posting or otherwise making available any User Content on or through the Service, you hereby grant, and you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary to grant, to Vero a limited, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, list information regarding, translate, distribute, syndicate, make derivative works of, or otherwise use your User Content, including (without limitation) your name, voice, and/or likeness as it is contained within your User Content, in whole or in part, and in any form, media or technology, whether now known or hereafter developed. This license is being used by Vero solely as necessary to provide the Service, and for such other limited uses identified in our Privacy Policy. This license is not being used by Vero to sell your User Content to third parties or otherwise profit off of your User Content in any way that would be unrelated to Vero providing and promoting the Service, and it does not give Vero any rights to own your User Content or limit your ability to use your User Content however you wish outside of the Service.


Let's pull out the part that seems to give people the most angst: "by posting or otherwise making available any User Content on or through the Service, you hereby grant, and you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary to grant, to Vero a limited, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, list information regarding, translate, distribute, syndicate, make derivative works of, or otherwise use your User Content, including (without limitation) your name, voice, and/or likeness as it is contained within your User Content..."


Okay, that seems a bit excessive... but is it? Note that last part: "...as it is contained within your User Content..."


Firstly, the Vero Terms of Use page provides additional context around the Legal Terms of Use, in plain English:


"Royalty-Free: To be a viable social network where you can provide and exchange your content without restriction, we need to be able to use your content without having to pay you a fee for each use."


"Sublicensable: Vero works with third parties to provide the Service and some of those service providers need access to your content to assist us in providing you the features and functionalities of the Service. As the saying goes, it takes a village."


"Reproduce: When you provide content to the Service, we make copies of that content so that you may retain the original while a copy is displayed on your profile."


"Modify: The technical requirements of the Service may require us to modify your content so that it may be displayed on the Service, like resizing a photo to display on the Service."


"Publish, Publicly Display, and Publicly Perform: We need your permission to make your content available to other Vero users or on the public parts of the Service. For example, if you post a video, we must be able to publish the collective work on the Service; publicly display the images within the video; and publicly perform the audio contained in the video."


"Distribute: You grant us the right to deliver your content to other users you have connected with on the Service."


"Make Derivative Works: Derivative works include previews of your videos."


"Rights to Name, Likeness and Image: If you post a picture or video of yourself, we need these rights without having to blur your image in your photos and videos."


Secondly, let's take a look at the Instagram Terms of Use, since the alarmist memes generally imply that Vero's terms of use are more insidious that other platforms. Their terms have apparently not been updated since January 19, 2013:


Proprietary Rights in Content on Instagram

Instagram does NOT claim ANY ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") that you post on or through the Instagram Services. By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content not shared publicly ("private") will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services.


The bold italics are the key part of the Instagram terms: they're almost identical to Vero's. Read that section again, and then compare to the Vero terms:


"...you hereby grant ... to Vero a limited, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, list information regarding, translate, distribute, syndicate, make derivative works of, or otherwise use your User Content, including (without limitation) your name, voice, and/or likeness as it is contained within your User Content, in whole or in part, and in any form, media or technology..."


Not surprisingly, the permissions users give Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, are also the same, for all intents and purposes:


The Permissions you Give Us

Specifically, when you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights on or in connection with our Products, you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings).


"But Facebook is awful!" you may cry. Okay, fine... let's take a look at one more: Twitter.


Your Rights and Grant of Rights in the Content

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. What’s yours is yours — you own your Content (and your incorporated audio, photos and videos are considered part of the Content).


By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods now known or later developed (for clarity, these rights include, for example, curating, transforming, and translating). This license authorizes us to make your Content available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same. You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals for the syndication, broadcast, distribution, Retweet, promotion or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use. Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals, is made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services as the use of the Services by you is hereby agreed as being sufficient compensation for the Content and grant of rights herein.


None of the above content is exciting or sexy, but if people are going to make claims around one platform or the other, it's worth diving in and seeing if there's any truth (just like with the claims about the CEO).


Part of what prompted me to add this section was someone on Instagram telling me I basically didn't know what I was talking about regarding the terms of use on Vero, and how they are far more damning than other platforms, even as I sat with the official Vero page open on my desktop browser to use as a definitive source. Go figure.


What do you think? Do you see anything in the Vero Terms of Use that give you concern? Are they any different, or worse, than other platforms? Am I missing something?

 
 

What I Like About Vero


Based on the above, I'm operating on the assumption that the accusations against Ayman Hariri are false, or, worst-case, unconfirmable. Under that assumption, let's take a closer look at the platform itself, and why I've found myself enjoying the experience so much more than Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


First and foremost, Vero does not operate on a foundation of ads. While you do have the ability to find featured artists and platforms, you'll never see a paid ad. That in and of itself is amazingly refreshing.


Screenshot of VERO True Social app showing its feed without ads, and the chronological feed
No ads, and a chronological feed

Additionally, your feed is 100% chronological. There's no incredibly complex and unknowable algorithm determining what content you should - or want to - see. If someone you follow posts, you'll see it, assuming you scroll through your feed enough.


There are also zero suggested posts, something that has really ruined my enjoyment of Twitter, in particular (on Instagram, at least, you can hide suggested posts for 30 days at a time).


I use Vero to discover and engage with other photographers or people who are interested in photography. I don't want to see what posts they're commenting on, or who they're following, or any other noise... especially when it has zero relevance to photography.


Users do have the ability to share links, songs, movies, books, and other items of interest, but that's also where the real beauty of Vero starts to shine: you have the ability to filter your feed to see only what you want to see. If you just want to see photos, simply hit the Photos tab at the top of your feed (or Videos, Links, etc.).


A screenshot of the VERO app showing a feed filtered to only photos
Filter your feed to see only what you want

Looking at the above screenshot, one may be concerned with the small size of the posts in a filtered feed but worry not: simply click on any post to view it in a larger format, and you can then swipe left and right through the posts after you've done so.


A screenshot of VERO for iPhone showing a full frame photo post
Swipe left and right to view more of your filtered feed

You also have the ability to filter individual accounts, and what posts you see for them, in your main feed. I believe this is a newer feature (well, relative to 2019 when I last used the app) and it's quite nice to see. If someone starts posting a bunch of links, music, or other types of posts you don't want to see, you can easily go into their profile, hit the three-dot menu, and select which post collections you want to see from them going forward.


A screenshot of VERO True Social showing a menu for filtering specific types of posts for an individual user
You can easily filter types of posts for individual users

The image quality on Vero is also outstanding, regardless of screen size. As long as images do not exceed 3,000 pixels on their long edge, they are not compressed at all. The quality far surpasses the horrific compression seen on Facebook and Instagram; only Twitter rivals it. On my 1440p 27" monitor in my office, I can view posts nearly full screen and they still look great.


Even better, if you're viewing posts on your phone or iPad, you can tap on the image to isolate it on a pleasing background that pulls colors from the image. For wider images, such as panoramas, they aren't even cropped, and you can rotate your device for an even better view. In fact, no images are cropped, which is a huge win compared to Instagram's ridiculous commitment to limited image dimensions.


A panoramic photo shown on the VERO True Social app
Panoramic photos are left uncropped

You can also pinch and zoom to see more details. Unlike Instagram, the image doesn't snap back to its full view as soon as you remove your fingers from the screen. Coupled with the higher quality images to begin with, you can really appreciate photos far more on Vero compared to other platforms.


A screenshot of a panorama viewed on VERO, with the device rotated 90 degrees for a larger view
Rotate your device for a better view of uncropped panoramas

Since the platform does not operate on an algorithm and all posts are shared chronologically, there's also no unspoken penalty for sharing links to external sites or other platforms (as is often seen on Facebook and Twitter... but especially Facebook).


You can share links to your YouTube videos (which can be viewed full screen without leaving Vero), blog posts, other photographer's content, and more, all without worrying that they'll be ruthlessly throttled to keep people from leaving the app.


A screenshot of VERO showing a feed filtered to links shared by followed accounts
Filter your feed to see shared links

Since links are separated into a separate collection from photos or videos uploaded directly to Vero, you can once again avoid them via the filters at the top of your feed (or scroll through only the links that have been shared by accounts you follow). It's your choice.


Perhaps my favorite feature, however, besides the lack of obnoxious ads, reels, algorithms, and other nonsense, is the introduction feature.


A screenshot of the intro feature on VERO True Social
Easily introduce profiles to your followers

By navigating to any user's profile and clicking into the menu, you can create an Intro post to share their profile with your followers. These posts still let you add your own comments, so you can shed some light on why you admire them and think others should give them a follow, as well.


Although I also share some dislikes with it below, the desktop app also has quite a few nice features. For the most part, it looks great, and you can easily view images, videos, and more in a much larger format than you can on mobile devices.


A screenshot of a user profile on the VERO desktop app for Windows
Viewing someone's profile on the Vero desktop app

The desktop feed can be a little overwhelming when viewed full screen but, on the flip side, the nice large images help you quickly scan the main feed and individual user profile feeds (as shown above). Where things really get exciting is as you start clicking into individual posts:


A screenshot of a single post on the VERO True Social desktop app for Windows
The nice clean, easy to view post view on the Vero desktop app

When you come across an amazing photo, like the one shown above by Matt Payne, it deserves to be viewed as large as possible. With the desktop app, you can (assuming it was uploaded with the maximum dimensions allowed):


A screenshot of a beautiful dunes photo at sunset, as seen in the VERO desktop app for Windows
A beautiful photo displayed beautifully in the Vero desktop app

There's a LOT to like about Vero. Everything I've noted above is what drove my appreciation for it back in 2018 and returning to it has once again been a fantastic experience.


For whatever reason, both in 2018 and now in 2022, I also find myself discovering photographers I had never come across before (although there are certainly plenty of people I know, as well). I don't have any easy way to validate it, but it's probably fair to say around 25% of the accounts I'm following are for photographers that are new to me.


The Intros feature certainly helps in that regard, too.


Perhaps it's the lack of distracting noise in the form of ads and all those other things we've all grown to mostly dislike on the other platforms, but it also seems users are far more excited about engaging with each other again, much like the experience of Instagram back in 2015 or so. That engagement also feels truly authentic; far too often, the same cannot be said elsewhere.


I can only speak for myself, but I can only take so much of scrolling on Twitter or Instagram these days, and usually find myself anxious to close out those apps as quickly as possible to avoid seeing what is, in my opinion, a lot of extraneous junk.


Oh yes, I forgot to mention that they also do not sell any user data. How's that for a refreshing change from the other platforms?

 
 

What I Don't Like About Vero


While I'm really enjoying so many things about the app, Vero is not without its flaws, although, in general, I feel they're pretty minor.


First and foremost, as much as I love the Intros feature, for some odd reason that's one type of post for which you can't filter on your main feed. You see Intros in your feed as you scroll, but the only way to filter specifically for them is to view someone's profile, at which point you'll be able to see in one place all the Intro posts they've made.


It seems it should be pretty simple - and beneficial - to add one more filter to your main feed options.


The Vero development team also desperately needs to add threading to comments on posts. It's 2022: this has been a pretty standard feature on other platforms for a while (well, not Twitter). You can reply to comments, but it just tags the person to whom you are responding instead of dropping your reply in as a threaded comment directly below theirs. It makes the comments section a bit clunky.


A screenshot of the VERO app showing comments and replies
Disorganized comments and replies

I've heard this feature is in the works, but it's not there yet, and its absence is felt.


Another issue I've seen raised by some users is around bugginess in the Android app. To Vero's credit, I did see one of their support agents active in the comments of a post where concerns were raised. They were asking for additional details from a few different users and advised them on how to submit a support ticket.


Frankly, I would guess that Vero was caught off guard by the seemingly random influx of users over the past week (not that that excuses any issues, but if you've worked in IT, you know the best way to find hidden bugs is to get more users hammering on your application with different devices and operating system versions).


Fortunately, I've found the iPhone app to be pretty flawless. I've experienced no crashes or lag, or any of the server issues that plagued the app when it exploded in 2018. Although, to be fair, I think they went from 150,000 users in April 2018 to over 1,000,000 by May 2018, and 3,000,000 by the end of that year.


While we're on the topic of app performance, though, I'd be remiss if I didn't state that the desktop app - although admittedly an early beta release, as noted when you download it and on the splash screen - needs some additional work.


A screenshot of the VERO desktop app for Windows PC
The desktop app looks nice, but is missing features

The user interface is a bit clunky, there's no way obvious way to manually refresh the feed (you click on the logo and wait for a barely visible "New Posts" icon to appear), you can't yet reply to comments (NOTE - This feature has now been added!), and you can fall down a rabbit hole of screens you have to close out one-by-one to get back to your feed, instead of having a simple "Home" button (using a very not-obvious "Close" button in the upper right).


NOTE - You can close out of screens in the desktop app by clicking outside of the window, or by using the ESC key on your keyboard. I'm not sure if those are new additions, or navigation tools I simply overlooked previously.


I also just discovered that the ability to filter your feed is missing, although I swear it was there just a minute ago. So, that may be another current bug or missing feature in the desktop app.


Additionally, the default display setting for the app on higher resolution monitors/screens doesn't allow the app to be displayed full screen. You can go into your settings and override that, with a warning that it may impact the app's performance (I haven't noticed any difference, thankfully).


Screenshot of the full screen warning message in the VERO desktop app for Windows
Full screen warning message

If you're wondering why one wouldn't just browse Vero via the desktop website instead of the in-progress app... well, you can't. On one hand, I can understand why they defaulted to an app experience for consistency and (maybe?) security, but on the other hand it sure would be nice to just hop to a fully featured site without worrying about downloading a desktop app or encountering the currently missing features.


Regardless of which app you're using, there's also no direct way to share a post from someone else. You can grab a link to the post and share it that way, which is fine, but there's nothing like a retweet feature to share it directly. I'm not actually sure how much of a negative that is as it helps control the amount of potentially unwanted "fluff" in your feed, and if you admire someone's work enough introducing their main profile is probably warranted anyways. It's something worth noting, though.


Lastly, although the app is currently free to use, the initial plan was to start monetizing it via monthly fees after the first 1,000,000 users. I know they passed that threshold in May 2018 and were apparently around 3,000,000 users by late 2018 or early 2019, but the app remains 100% free to use.


That raises the question, however, of what the long-term plan for monetization is. They don't sell user data, they don't run ads, they don't have sponsored or boosted posts... all great things for users but it limits their opportunities to actually fund the platform over time.


As of a December 2021 interview with Ayman Hiriri by GQ, the founder and CEO remains committed to an ad-free, algorithm-free platform. At the time, he shared that they were "well beyond five and a half million users," but he is still personally funding the service, stating "we'll turn it [paid subscriptions] on when we're ready" (he went on to say that he expects that to happen sometime in 2022).


(for what it's worth, I recommend reading that GQ interview as it's fairly interesting in general)


Only time will tell what, if anything, changes in the future. Given the quality of the app and the experience of using it I'd be happy to throw $5.00-$10.00 a month towards it, but it would be highly questionable if enough people would feel the same. Going to a subscription model could completely destroy user traffic once again.


I do think it's smart to prove the value of the platform to new and existing users first, before turning on monetization through subscriptions. It puts pressure on the company to keep delivering a quality product and experience as, otherwise, users will be far less interested in buying in.

 
 

Conclusion


Going back to the elephant in the room - the involvement, or lack thereof, of Ayman Hariri in the events that took place at Saudi Oger - we each need to make our own decisions based on the available information. Personally, when I see a meme or post making extraordinary claims my first inclination is to try to confirm its accuracy. In this case, that has proven tricky, but I currently feel there's enough information available to make a reasonable decision.


Assuming you make the same choice as me, I think you'll find Vero to be a pretty wonderful experience.


I haven't really enjoyed using Facebook or Instagram in a while, but they were - and likely always will be - a necessary evil (keeping in mind I'm also trying to grow a photography business). Instead of authentically connecting with other photographers or people interested in photography, they've increasingly become places for sensory overload, usually by content that I have little interest in seeing, while suppressing content I actually do want to see.


When I dusted off my Twitter account in 2021 after several years of inactivity, it initially seemed like a delightful opportunity to find the sense of community I felt had been lost on the Meta apps. Unfortunately, shortly after rejoining, the NFT craze caught fire and I found my feed flooded by cringey group-speak, blatant shilling, and grossly disingenuous cheerleading.


Thankfully, having the ability to mute accounts and words helped clean up my Twitter feed again, but as 2022 has progressed I feel things have gone completely off the rails with the app shoving other content in my face, and a flood of ads (in comments? really?!).


Correlation or not, it seemed as if things really got crazy after Elon Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter and, given my user experience over the last few months, I'm pretty confident in saying it's my least favorite of the Big 3 social media platforms (well, I guess I'm dismissing TikTok... but that's a whole other can of worms). I cannot stand scrolling through my Twitter feed.


Me, opening Twitter in 2022 (and a shout out to one of my all-time favorite movie clips):



Perhaps it's sad that a social media app that is built upon such a simple foundation as a chronological feed without ads or other content from people you don't follow is being received so well by so many, but Vero really is a fantastic experience. Not to lean too heavily on hyperbolism, but in many ways it's a call back to the promise of what social media could be back when we were first getting used to Facebook.


Perhaps the biggest testament to its quality of experience is how many people I've seen express derision at its recent return, only to try it again and suddenly start articulating how enjoyable they've found it to be.


I don't know if 2022 will end up being any different than 2018 for Vero. I certainly hope so. Heck, I wouldn't have committed the time to researching and writing this blog post if I wasn't hoping for things to play out differently this time.


It's not perfect. It's different and unfamiliar. It may be a little buggy, and it's missing some features. But, if I were a gambling man, I'd bet that, if you give it a fair chance, you'll find that it's pretty great.


Speaking of which, you can find me on Vero here. Give me a follow, and give the platform a chance. It won't be a quick rise to fame and glory, but that's not really the point.

 

What do you think of Vero? Have you rejoined or signed up for the first time recently? Are you enjoying it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


 

Until next time, take care.


-MR

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Guest
Feb 08, 2023

Hello Michael.


Great article. I took the time and did lots of research as well and found about the same you did. I have not signed up and won't though, not because of the controversy, but because of the lack of benefit for a photo business. Here are my thoughts to consider: Yes, our current social media apps stink and are disappointing in all the ways you mentioned. When we post and connect on social media, who is our target audience? Other photographers? I put out a poll and found that a lot photographers know what Vero is, but no one else does. Friends, family, customers, clients, and businesses have no idea what it is let alone have accounts. My…

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Guest
Sep 17, 2022

Thanks for the well written article on VERO. I joined earlier this week after I found out from a photographer friend. I’ve been using the app on my MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone and like it. It‘s nice not to have ads and reels in my feed that I have no interest in. I prefer VERO over Instagram which I barely use anymore. I’ll check out your VERO page. Yolanda B.

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Guest
Sep 16, 2022

Thanks for this article. I had never heard of Vero. My question is whether non-members can view photos or are they only viewable to those who sign up for the app? Currently, I post photo to Flickr. If someone wants to see what I do, I give them my Flickr url. Could I do that on Vero?

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Guest
Sep 01, 2022

I looked at my 2018 account again for the first time this week. I still have only 1 photo posted, 2 followers, and I'm not sure I'm following anyone else yet. I'm intrigued, but obviously being someone with relatively few FB and instagram followers, I'm not sure how I'll get more followers on this platform. I'm trying to see how it will be relevant for better or me--even if I'm disappointed with FB and IG.

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Michael Rung
Michael Rung
Sep 11, 2022
Replying to

I'd say it's not terribly different from other social media where you're trying to build a following for your photography: share great images and interesting stories/information. The main benefit is, if you post, your followers will actually see it. Another great way is to be engaged on the posts of those you follow, as well. Offer thoughtful comments, etc.


And, of course, there are still hashtags that you can use (within reason) to help others discover you. If you head to the search tab, there's currently a handy little photography guide that shares tips and info (you can also find popular hashtags on the search page and discover featured photographers to follow).

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Guest
Aug 26, 2022

Thank you for a well written, informative article about Vero. I have been curious about this platform and you have addressed most of my questions and concerns... including the ones that kept me from joining Vero several years ago. I appreciate the time you put into your research. Thanks again and maybe I'll see you on Vero.


-Skip | travel refocused

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Michael Rung
Michael Rung
Aug 26, 2022
Replying to

That's great to hear, Skip. I'm glad it helped you out. Definitely give me a follow if you haven't already!

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