ARTISTS, ALGORITHMS & AUTHENTICITY: THE VERO VS. INSTAGRAM DEBATE

Rachel Parker writes about the newest social network to go viral, and whether you should join.

This week has seen an explosion of interest surrounding Vero, the app advertised as ‘a Truly Social Network that celebrates people’s passions without algorithms, ads, or bots.’ According to a Vero twitter post on the fourth of March, the app has gained 3.5 million new users and upgraded its servers to cope with the influx.

Vero’s tagline of ‘True Social’ encapsulates the vision behind the app: to create an authentic sharing space which more accurately imitates how people interact IRL. The selective sharing feature allows users to categorise their connections as friends, close friends or acquaintances, and choose which groups can see their posts. Meanwhile, Vero has promised its commitment to an ad-free, chronologically arranged feed.

The issue of feed organisation has frustrated Instagram and Facebook users for some time, particularly the artists and businesses who argue that algorithm changes have limited the reach and audience of their content.

The Instagram feed is now primarily based on engagement, meaning that posts which quickly receive more likes, comments and shares are classified as higher quality and arranged at the top of your feed. This leads to content from more high-profile accounts being naturally prioritised, while smaller creators and personal connections often disappear into the ether. Instagram has also upped the number of targeted advertising spaces and capacity for brands to promote their posts on user’s feeds.

This is all beneficial for the influencers and big brands who have already amassed a large following, but where does it leave smaller businesses and artists who rely on Instagram to promote their work? Many have complained of a loss of engagement on Instagram; despite producing high-quality and carefully considered content, smaller creatives are unable to gain the levels of exposure that Instagram once offered. The oversaturation of user feeds with ads, sponsored posts and images from bigger accounts is creating what many see as a more artificial online space, where visibility can be bought and sold – and smaller artists get buried.

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This is where Vero has entered a gap in the market. Initially popular among online creative communities such as cosplay, the chronological feed and ability to link content to in-app purchases appears to offer a far more supportive and democratic space for artists to promote their work. As well as posting original content, users can also share recommendations for music, TV and film, and books and articles they enjoy, offering further opportunities for creatives to gain exposure.

But the huge surge in downloads has quickly led to a backlash against Vero, which crashed multiple times during the influx of new users. Its cofounder and CEO Ayman Hariri has been linked to a Saudi construction company which was sued by 31,000 workers over claims that they had not been correctly paid, causing many critics to brand the app and its funding as unethical. Others have condemned the fact that the ad-free site will be funded through user subscription charges, and Vero has been vague about what the cost of these will be.

The terms of service have also concerned some creatives considering using the platform. The app requires users to grant permission for Vero to “publicly perform, publicly display, make derivative works of, or otherwise use your User Content”- terms which are common to other social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, but caused some panic.

These rapid shifts in Vero’s popularity render its position within the social media market uncertain, with many doubting that enough Instagram users will migrate to the new platform to make it a true competitor. But the emergence of the app also raises questions about the position of creatives within the increasingly commercialised online space offered by Instagram. Vero’s sudden popularity suggests an appetite for authenticity among social media users – time will tell if Vero is the app to disrupt the Instagram algorithms.

Find Rachel Parker on social media with @rachelfrances_

Image credits: Vero, Pexels

 

5 FASHION ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW ON VERO

  • Fashion house Temperly London
  • Jewellery designer Kristine Cabanban
  • Luxury loungewear brand Sundays
  • Accessories designer Friday and River
  • Menswear brand Oliver Spencer

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