Why I ditched Instagram for the Vero app

Why I ditched Instagram for the Vero app

Vero in the hand warm contrast

Adam Birney / Android Authority

Instagram seems to have forgotten its roots in photography. In recent years, the app has focused less on photos and more on promoting short-form video reels in content streams and stories at the top of the page. The few photos I come across are usually of someone’s lunch or a selfie in front of a mirror. The drive to compete with other video-based apps like TikTok misses what made Instagram special in the first place — the appreciation of beautiful, still images. Fortunately, I found Vero, a social media app that allowed me to connect with photography and creators in a way Instagram never had.

Read more: 8 smartphone photography tips guaranteed to deliver instant results

I’ve been using Vero with Instagram for a few years now and have been using it exclusively for the past month, so that’s why I think you should give it a try if you like looking at pretty pictures more than silly videos.

A focus on photography

As I browse Vero, I can’t help but appreciate the beautifully designed user interface. Of course, this is subjective, but I find the simple aesthetic soothing, with smart features to enhance the content experience. For example, while scrolling through a post that contains multiple images, the app’s background colors will automatically adjust to match the theme. It’s a subtle touch that helps draw attention to the photo.

In addition, I can actually zoom in on a photo! When I try to zoom in on Instagram, it feels broken, and I always fall for it. I have to hold my pinched fingers against the screen to stay zoomed in, and the picture often goes blurry. On Vero, zooming is much more intuitive. I just open my pinched fingers to zoom in, then take my hand off the screen to get a closer look at the details of the image. I can scroll around to see the rest as I want and hit the back button when I’m done.

No ads or algorithms

I often miss something a friend has posted on Instagram because the algorithm refreshes my feed and clutters it with sponsored posts or ads. Unlike almost all major social media platforms, Vero has no algorithms or ads. Zero. In other words, it contains what I want to see — posts from people I follow, not posts from people Instagram thinks I should follow or for things it thinks I should buy.

A strictly chronological feed of content from people I follow clears out all the fluff.

The strictly chronological feed is really the icing on the cake. Unlike Instagram, where the feed refreshes after I open the app, and I have to scroll down to find the last post I saw, Vero remembers where in my feed I left off and lets me pick up from there. After opening the app, I just scroll up to see everything that’s been posted since I’ve been gone. Or a quick tap on the Home button takes me to the most recent posts.

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The app’s desktop and tablet versions give a full view of posts instead of a linear feed. It’s a nice change in presentation across devices that makes it easier to quickly see more posts and keep up with what’s new.

Vero’s co-founder and CEO, Ayman Hariri, says Vero was born out of a frustration with the one-size-fits-all model of Big Social. That model is the deal in which people get a free profile, but in return have to give up an infinite amount of personal data about themselves, their interests, their relationships, and so on. Vero has so far delivered on its promise to be something different, but time will tell if it can stick to its morals once the server bills start rising and investors come looking for returns. At that point it will be easier said than done.

More real people, less bots

vero people

Because there is no money to be made on Vero, there are fewer creators on the app. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I get the impression that most people on Vero know that they will have less reach than on the major networks, and they don’t seem to care: they are (and stay) there for the original content and the connection to other aspect. I find it a case of quality over quantity as there is much less hashtag abuse and less content being provided just to get clicks.

It’s not hard to discover new artists without an algorithm.

It’s also not hard to discover new artists without an algorithm. The app often highlights notable artists on the Featured page, including the likes of Zack Snyder, Peter McKinnon, and Madonna. The company even has its own record label to sponsor up and coming musicians. Additionally, the recent addition of a curated Discovery page has made it easier for me to find photographers and visual artists of all different styles.

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Adam Birney / Android Authority

From a creator’s perspective, there is no need to refine posts to please the almighty algorithm in hopes of getting noticed. This takes a lot of pressure off, especially since many photographers on Instagram have reported a significant drop in engagement — when it comes to stills, there’s been a 44 percent drop in engagement for input posts on Instagram since 2019. So, who knows, you might have better luck finding a niche community here that appreciates your work.

The app also does its best to deter bot accounts. Vero requires everyone to register with their cell number, just like with Signal or WhatsApp. This requirement means I don’t have to deal with as many fake accounts following me. (The app’s limited popularity also certainly helps keep bots away.) The few fake accounts that followed me were removed by the next day, while on apps like Twitter or Instagram it feels like at least one new fake account has follow every day.

More sharing options

Although Vero focuses on sharing photography, I appreciate that I can share just about anything I want, from what music I enjoy to what movies I’m watching or books I’m reading. I can connect with friends and followers in various ways, such as through voice or video calls and private chats within the application. The various options position Vero as a one-stop-shop social media portal.

Furthermore, I have full control over who sees my post. There is no need for separate accounts to hide my identity or share more personal posts on Vero. A basic audience selector allows me to effectively control who sees my posts through four easy levels: close friends, friends, acquaintances and the public. I can also edit the visibility of a post after I’ve posted it.

Another feature here that Instagram sorely lacks is clickable links. It’s a bit ridiculous that in 2022 Instagram still doesn’t allow links in posts. I suspect it’s because the developers don’t want me to leave the app. But then again, this may be a measure to avoid excessive spam, given the number of fake accounts. Regardless, Meta can fix this somehow if it wants to.

In contrast, on Vero, I can link to anything from apps to locations or even share a cute profile I’ve found. The freedom to connect outside of the app with various options is refreshing.

It’s free to use – for now

When Vero launched in 2015, the founders said only the first million accounts would be free. In 2018, it nearly tripled its user base from 150,000 to over 3 million. Today, the app has a modest 5 million active users and is still completely free to use.

VERO Logo Color Baseline RGB

Adam Birney / Android Authority

Granted, Instagram is also free, but only in large part due to the ridiculous number of ads. And while Instagram claims that I don’t sell or share my data with anyone else, I find it a little suspicious that ads are targeted so precisely. For example, shortly after shopping for a product on Amazon, it’s not uncommon to see it recommended to me in an ad on Instagram.

Conversely, it’s impressive that Vero has remained free all this time for a platform that doesn’t receive ad revenue. The app has so far sustained itself due to its founder’s funding and income generated through affiliate fees. But it may not last forever. Vero has been rumored to be planning to introduce a paid subscription model in the future. As stylish and less commercial as the interface is, I worry that introducing a paid subscription will scare away newcomers and reduce the community’s growth. The good news is that you can secure a free account for life if you sign up now – at least that’s the current promise.

Should you make the switch?

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Some people like their stories, portrait videos, and an algorithm to feed them content instead of searching for it. But if you’re not a fan of the direction Instagram is going, Vero is a great platform to reconnect with the roots of photography. To me, the experience feels more modern (or more nostalgic) by giving me more control over what I want to see and who I want to share my content with.

Even if you don’t delete Instagram, using Vero at least lets you diversify your online presence and connect with a different crowd.

But even with Vero’s growing numbers, the app can sometimes feel a little too quiet. I’ve met some nice people on Vero, but none of the friends I see in real life use the app. It becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy where everyone stays on Instagram because everyone is on Instagram. So any competitor may be less attractive to non-creators who just want to keep an eye on their social group.

Depending on how you want to spend your time online, Vero can be an enjoyable digital space. It has so far maintained a close-knit community feel at scale, but that could all change if it explodes in popularity. Even if you don’t delete Instagram, using Vero at least lets you diversify your online presence and connect with a different crowd.

Read more: The best photography essentials you can buy right now

Frequently Asked Questions

The Vero app is a social media platform primarily used to showcase photography, but users can also share movies, music, books, locations, and more.

Yes, the Vero app is safe to use. No ads or algorithms exist, and your personal data is not shared with other third parties. The ability to control who sees your posts also helps ensure the safe visibility of your profile.

No, unlike TikTok, the Vero app was not made or designed in China or with the involvement of Chinese companies.

Vero is a US-based company majority owned by its co-founders (CEO Ayman Hariri, Scott Birnbaum and Motaz Nabulsi) and members of the team.

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