Vero Launches Social Media App to Mirror Real World Relationships

Another would-be rival to Facebook’s dominance in the social media world unveiled an iPhone app Tuesday, coming out of closed beta, and hinged its hopes on a promise to make digital connections behave more like real world relationships.

Self-funded Vero, with offices in New York and overseas, developed an app that lets people put their social connections in categories as they add them, which will determine which kind of information they will see. For example, an acquaintance would not see vacation photos that are designated for close connections only.

CEO and co-founder Ayman Hariri, who is based in Saudi Arabia, says Vero, founded in 2013, got its start after he noticed people he knew acted differently online. “In the real world, nobody gets up on a stage in front of a thousand people every two seconds and shows them a photo,” he says.

When someone adds a new connection on Vero, they will be listed as Close Friends, Friends, or Acquaintances. That setting controls which posts that connection will see. Items shared with acquaintances will be viewable to close friends, but not the other way around, Hariri says.

Conversely, the user will be able to see messages from more significant connections readily rather than sifting through a flood of status updates.

Six types of posts are available through Vero: photos, links, music, movies, books, and places. That sounds limiting, but Hariri says it gives users distinct ways to express themselves and recommend such things to their connections.

He says it would be hard for Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) to replicate such a feature, even though Facebook users can designate some followers as Close Friends or Family for sharing content. Hariri says other social networks do not automatically share posts intended for acquaintances with closer connections. “It’s a nuanced idea but turning it into something simple to understand and easy to use, we haven’t seen that anywhere,” he says. Mimicking Vero’s service on other social networks would entail users going back through their friends list and categorizing each person. “We’re doing that at the onboarding,” Hariri says.

Users will have free access to Vero for one year, then would need to pay a nominal yearly subscription, he says. The cost of subscriptions is still being determined.

Vero is far from the first startup to attempt to wrest control of social networking from Facebook’s monstrous hands. Now-defunct Proust, a startup launched within IAC in New York, attempted to offer a different approach via a virtual scrapbook of significant moments shared with close personal and family connections. Not long after Proust went live though, Facebook introduced its timeline feature, which organized status updates and photos to highlight important milestones in a person’s life. Though Facebook’s changes were never specified as the cause, about six months after it went live, the Proust social scrapbook shutdown.

Hariri says what sets Vero apart is the app emulates conversations people have in the real world by offering just the six types of posts to share experiences and offer recommendations. “There hasn’t been a way of putting these different features in one place,” he says.

Vero also is ad free, Hariri says, which some users may welcome as an alternative to being bombarded by marketing when they sign on. The subscription fees, along with other revenue generating plans, will support Vero. “We intend this to be a platform for companies and brands that allow the users to opt in to receive information those brands decide to give their users,” Hariri says.

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