The creators of Vero are betting that there’s room for a new kind of social network — one that’s a bit more attuned to the nuances of real-world relationships.
Like other social media services, Vero allows users to share movies, music, photos and so on. Where it gets a little different is in the privacy around that sharing.
Instead of confronting users with overly complicated, difficult-to-understand controls, Vero users can share content with different groups — close friends, friends and acquaintances. They can also post content and keep it completely private.
“We wanted to make user privacy an easy thing to understand and not depend on adjusting 1,000 knobs,” said co-founder and CEO Ayman Hariri.
As he explained those settings, I flashed back to the first time I heard about Google+, where users were also asked to place their connections in different “circles” of friends, acquaintances, etc. (While Google+ may still have some partisans, the social network clearly hasn’t lived up to expectations, with Google starting to decouple it from the company’s other services.)
Hariri countered that Google Circles were simply too complicated. The potentially unlimited number of circles left users struggling to decide who goes in what group, then they had to struggle to remember those classifications when they were ready to share.
With Vero, there are only four levels of sharing, and they form what Hariri called “concentric circles” of privacy. So sharing with your friends will include all your close friends, and sharing with your acquaintances will include all your friends. This is illustrated neatly by Vero’s slider that you can adjust to different privacy levels.
While the privacy controls are pretty novel, there are other features, too. Users can also create and share collections of their favorite content, and as they’re sharing, they can hit a button to indicate whether or not they’d recommend that movie or whatever. Plus, they can start chats around the content.
During our discussion, I pointed out that social networking apps have tended to be less broad on mobile — the successful ones have focused on specific types of sharing, whether it’s photos, videos or messaging. To an extent, even Facebook has taken this approach.
“People crave simplicity for sure, but what they really want is something that captivates their attention,” Hariri said. “You’re not in the mode all the time to share a picture.”
He also emphasized his intention to keep Vero free of advertising. (Brands will be able to create and share, but users will only see brand content if they opt-in.) Instead, Hariri plans to make money by charging users a subscription fee after their first year of free service.