Why the Knife Community is Flocking to an Ad-Free Social Media App

Over the weekend, social media users flocked to an Android and IOS App called Vero after it received coverage in a growing number of mainstream media outlets. Starting last night, hundreds of knife brands and community members jumped on board and began promoting their new Vero accounts to their Instagram followers.

Vero was founded by a Lebanese billionaire as an ad-free alternative to Instagram and Facebook. The company plans on charging users a subscription fee, though they promise that the first million users will never have to pay. “Our subscription model will allow us to keep Vero advertising-free, and to focus solely on delivering the best social experience instead of trying to find new ways to monetize our users’ behavior,” Vero writes in their manifesto.

For users, the most appealing feature of Vero might be its chronological newsfeed. Facebook and Instagram use algorithms to choose if and when posts are displayed to friends and followers. This means the content at the top of your feed is not necessarily the most recent, and the algorithms decide if your followers will see your latest post at all. In contrast, Vero simply shows the newest posts first.

For knife brands, Vero also comes as welcome competition to Facebook and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook). Though the knife industry has grown exponentially thanks to those platforms, it’s clear that the Menlo Park, CA-based social media giant is no longer fond of pocket knives and fixed blades which it classifies as ‘weapons’.

In 2014, Facebook banned knife-related advertising and more recently ended the person-to-person sale of knives. In January, Facebook’s Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg also announced that the site would show its users less content from businesses – requiring them to pay for ads (which knife companies cannot do) to maintain the reach of their posts. Some worry that the situation might one day culminate in a total ban on ‘weapons’ on the social media platform.

It may have just passed the tipping point, but Vero isn’t exactly new. The app first launched in the summer of 2015, under the impetus of Founder Ayman Hariri. Hariri is one of the sons of Rafic Hariri, a well-known Lebanese tycoon and Prime Minister whose assassination in 2005 instigated significant political upheaval in the country.

Anybody familiar with the workings of Facebook or Instagram will have no trouble taking to Vero. But despite being visually impressive, the software is still in beta and suffers from minor software bugs. A bigger problem is its slow performance and frequent crashes that Vero says started over the weekend after the major uptick in traffic. But if Vero can scale up its capacity, it has the potential to become a setting that strengthens the community – if for no other reason than to pressure established social media channels to become more knife friendly.