By Samantha Wahl, Contributing Writer
Earlier this week, I signed up for Vero. I did it to see what the fuss was about, and so that I could tell all of you Torch readers about it, and because my editor asked me to. Basically, I did it for science. Before we get to what I thought of it, let me give you a quick rundown of what it is.
Vero is a new social network, available for free in the App Store. The name Vero comes from the Latin word for “true”; fitting, for an app that wants to make social networking more genuine. Here’s how it does that: Vero lets users assign followers into different privacy circles, including Close Friends, Acquaintances, and Followers. (Turns out, the only person I knew on Vero was this guy named Bill, so I didn’t really need those, but we’ll get to that.) You can post about books, movies, places, and music, as well as post photos.
Most uniquely, Vero is centered around recommendations; this apparently helps spur conversation, while the adjustable privacy settings avoid the impersonal feel of networks like Facebook. You don’t really talk at your Vero followers as much as you talk with them. At least, that’s the idea. Would it pan out? There was one way to find out. I downloaded the app, punched in my information and set up a Vero account. After putting up a Facebook status asking my friends to follow me, I set off.
Writing that Facebook status was the first time it dawned on me that Vero is a pretty hard sell; in so many ways it’s just another social network. “What is this?” commented one of my friends. “YouTube does video, Twitter does short blasts of text. What does Vero do?”
The truth is, Vero doesn’t bring anything truly new to the table except a perspective. The spirit it was founded in is different, but that only means so much. Functionally, you can do almost anything you can do on Vero, on Facebook or Instagram. So almost no one I knew who signed up- this could have also had to do with Vero crashing over the last week due to high traffic, which made it difficult to join- and I was lonely until my second day, when Bill followed me. Thanks, Bill.
When you sign up for Vero, they require a phone number, which isn’t unusual for social networks. What is unusual was that Vero offered to call me immediately to confirm that the number was real. I also had the option to confirm via text, but I still remember feeling a little uncomfortable; Vero reminded me of a pushy guy in a bar.
But after I had proven my identity to Vero, I was excited to get started. The app spit out some suggested people to follow, among them Justice League director Zack Snyder. Being a DC Comics fan, I thought that was cool. But come to think of it, Vero hadn’t collected any information about my interests beforehand, so the suggestions were probably one-size-fits-all. I followed all my recommended users, which is the only reason I have anything going on in my Vero feed right now.
Which brings me to the next thing: finding people you know on Vero is hard, at least right now. While it’s very easy to invite your friends, there isn’t really a feature for finding them on the site efficiently; my efforts to search for people by phone number were in vain, and Vero doesn’t use QR codes like Snapchat does, so finding someone who has a common name could be difficult. It’s almost inevitable that you’d have these problems on a new social network, but on a site as obsessed with conversation and interaction as Vero, not having anyone to talk to gets boring fast. My first thought was not to redouble my Vero recruitment efforts; it was to click back onto Twitter.
Final verdict: Vero is alright, but it doesn’t really have a selling point of its own; most of what it does is already available on Facebook or Instagram, and its privacy circles can be imitated by anyone with a strong knowledge of Facebook settings. This makes it a little hard to talk friends into joining, unless your friend is Bill. And on something like Vero, if your squad doesn’t take it up, there’s a demoralizing feeling of shouting into the void. I hope the void appreciated my book recommendations, but for now, I’ll stick to Facebook and Twitter.