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Vero a Hot Instagram Alternative, but Will It Last?

Vero shows friends' posts in chronological order rather than tailored to your perceived tastes, as determined by software

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Many apps pulled out of the watchOS. VOA
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Instagram users fed up with the service becoming more and more like Facebook are flocking to a hot new app called Vero.

Vero lets you share photos and video just like Instagram, plus it lets you talk about music, movies or books you like or hate. Though Vero has been around since 2015, its popularity surged in recent days, thanks in part to sudden, word-of-mouth interest from the cosplay community — comic book fans who like to dress up as characters. That interest then spread to other online groups.

There’s also a growing frustration with Instagram, with a flood of ads, dearth of privacy options and a recent end to the chronological ordering of posts. Instagram users have been posting screenshots of Vero, asking their friends to join.

ALSO READ: Best Indian Travel Bloggers to Follow on Instagram

But don’t ring Instagram’s death knells just yet. Hot new apps pop up and fizzle by the dozen, so the odds are stacked against Vero. Remember Ello? Peach? Thought so.

“Young people are super fickle and nothing has caught on in the way that Snapchat or Instagram has,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an eMarketer analyst who specializes in social media.

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As of Thursday, Vero was approaching 3 million users. Pixabay

From 2015 until this past week, Vero was little known, with fewer than 200,000 users, according to CEO Ayman Hariri. Then cosplay members started posting photos of elaborate costumes and makeup. Photographers, tattoo artists, and others followed.

A fee, eventually

Vero has gotten so popular in recent days that some users have reported widespread outages and error messages. Vero says it’s working to keep up in response “a large wave of new users.”

Vero works on Apple or Android mobile devices and is free, at least for now. The company eventually wants to charge a subscription fee.

There are no ads, and the service promises “no data mining. Ever.” That means it won’t try to sell you stuff based on your interests and habits, as revealed through your posts. Of course, Facebook started out without ads and “data mining,” and it’s now one of the top internet advertising companies. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and started showing ads there the following year.

Instagram’s privacy settings are all or nothing: You either make everything available to everyone on Instagram or make everything visible only to approved friends. Vero lets you set the privacy level of individual posts. If you don’t want something available to all users, you can choose just close friends, friends or acquaintances.

Another big difference: Vero shows friends’ posts in chronological order rather than tailored to your perceived tastes, as determined by software. Instagram got rid of chronological presentations in 2016, a change that hasn’t gone well with many users.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire after starting the service. Vero’s founder was already one. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Instagram Users Less Interested In Controversial Images

Founder was already wealthy

Hariri is the son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and helped run the family’s now-defunct construction company in Saudi Arabia. He got a computer science degree from Georgetown and returned to Saudi Arabia after his father was assassinated in 2005. His half-brother, Saad, is Lebanon’s current prime minister.

Hariri’s ties with the family business, Saudi Oger, have come into question. The company has been accused in recent years of failing to pay workers and stranding them with little food and access to medical care. Vero says Hariri hasn’t had any operational or financial involvement with the business since late 2013.

Hariri said he started the service not to replace Instagram but to give people “a more authentic social network.” Because Vero doesn’t sell ads, he said, it isn’t simply trying to get people to stay on longer. More important, he said, is “how you feel when you use [it] and how you feel it’s useful.”

Newcomers like Ello and Peach can quickly become popular as people fed up with bigger services itch for something new. But reality can set in when people realize that their friends are not on the new services or that these services aren’t all they promised to be.

Williamson, the eMarketer analyst, said it’s difficult for a new service to become something people use for more than a few weeks.

ALSO READ: Drop-dead (to become) Gorgeous? How Social Media Corrupts our Definition of Body Image

A rare exception is Snapchat, which was founded in 2010, the same year as Instagram. Unlike Instagram, it has remained an independent company and is still a popular service among younger people. But even Snapchat is having trouble growing more broadly.

EMarketer recently published a report that predicted 2 million people under 25 leaving Facebook for other apps this year. But that means going to Snapchat and the Facebook-owned Instagram, not necessarily emerging services like Vero. (VOA)

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The European Union Warns Facebook Over Consumer’s Data Usage

Facebook said it has already updated its terms of service in May to incorporate changes recommended at that point by EU authorities.

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Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration. VOA

The European Union’s consumer protection chief said Thursday she’s growing impatient with Facebook’s efforts to improve transparency with users about their data, warning it could face sanctions for not complying.

EU Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova turned up the pressure on the social media giant, saying she wants the company to update its terms of service and expects to see its proposed changes by mid-October so they can take effect in December.

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European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova attends an interview with Reuters at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. VOA

“I will not hide that I am becoming rather impatient because we have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years and I really want to see, not the progress — it’s not enough for me — but I want to see the results,” Jourova said.

The EU wants Facebook to give users more information about how their data is used and how it works with third party makers of apps, games and quizzes.

“If we do not see the progress the sanctions will have to come,” she said. She didn’t specify punishment, saying they would be applied by individual countries. “I was quite clear we cannot negotiate forever, we just want to see the result.”

The EU has been pressing the U.S. tech company to look at what changes it needs to make to better protect consumers and this year Facebook has had to adapt to new EU data protection rules. The concerns took on greater urgency after the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal erupted, in which data on 87 million Facebook users was allegedly improperly harvested.

Jourova said she hopes Facebook will take more responsibility for its nearly 380 million European users.

“We want Facebook to be absolutely clear to its users about how their service operates and makes money,” she said.

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An advertisement in The New York Times is displayed on Sunday, March 25, 2018, in New York. Facebook’s CEO apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal with ads in multiple U.S. and British newspapers. VOA

Facebook said it has already updated its terms of service in May to incorporate changes recommended at that point by EU authorities.

The company said it “will continue our close cooperation to understand any further concerns and make appropriate updates.”

Jourova also said U.S.-based property rental site Airbnb has agreed to clarify its pricing system in response to complaints that it could mislead consumers.

Airbnb has promised to be fully transparent by either including extra fees in the total price for a booking quoted on its website or notifying users that they might apply, she said.

 

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U.S.-based property rental site Airbnb has agreed to clarify its pricing system in response to complaints that it could mislead consumers. Flickr

The company is complying with EU demands spurred by concerns that consumers could be confused by its complicated pricing structure, which could add unexpected costs such as cleaning charges at the end of a holiday.

Airbnb is also changing its terms of service to make it clear that travelers can sue their host if they suffer personal harm or other damages. That’s in response to complaints that its booking system can leave tourists stranded if the rental is canceled when all other arrangements have been already made.

Also Read: EU Regulators Question Online Retailer Amazon’s Data Usage

Airbnb said “guests have always been aware of all fees, including service charges and taxes, before booking listings,” and will work with authorities to make it even clearer. (VOA)