Is BeReal the next big thing?

BeReal is a photo sharing app that provides “A new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.” At a random time every day, you and your friends are notified to share a photo within 2 minutes. As of May 2022, BeReal has over 1 million downloads on Google Play and is ranked #4 for Social Networking in the App Store.

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Cristina Pellini
May 15, 2022 4:41 am

Early in my economics education I took a class on First Mover Advantage. Capturing the market early, or better yet first, would provide a host of benefits that subsequent entrants would struggle with. Better yet for the first mover, they could leverage their established position in the market to make it difficult for new competitors to enter.

As time passes, certain economic theories lose their relevance. Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand described in the Wealth of Nations referred to the social benefits society received from pursuing their own self interest. While this capitalist pursuit of self-interest led to immense wealth generation and economic growth, the potential global catastrophe of human-induced climate change wasn’t a concern for 19th century societies as it is today. Economic crises, poverty and widening inequality also make us question the relevance in today’s world of the pursuit of self-interest.

Just as Adam Smith’s theories don’t hold the same relevance as they once I did, I thought the same about First Mover Advantage. Does it really matter when a guy can make a website in his Harvard dorm room and take over the world? The answer is yes and no. Being the first in a market is no longer the advantage it once was, particularly in this interconnected world where access to products and services are a click away. But make no mistake. Entering a competitive market, especially one as competitive as social media, is incredibly difficult.

TikTok’s rapid rise is often used as an exemplar when people exalt the possibilities of the social media market. Leaks on TikTok’s working culture, however, reveal the lengths TikTok has had to go in order to get to the top. A Wall Street Journal investigation shares TikTok staff experiences that include sleep deprivation, 85+ hour work weeks and an intense management style. Interestingly, staff who have worked at other tech companies say “what they experienced at TikTok was so far and away more intense than the hours and the pressure they were under at previous tech companies.

It stands to reason that BeReal has a mountain to climb before it can be the ‘next big thing’. TikTok didn’t stumble its way to the top. It got to the top in a relentless manner that isn’t for the faint-hearted. In this market, the idea is secondary. First and foremost, BeReal needs to determine if it has the ruthlessness required to make a dent in the social media world.

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May 17, 2022 8:08 am

BeReal’s unique selling point is life without filters #nofilter #beauthentic. I do believe, my good friends, that shots have been fired! BeReal is blowing its horn about it. It is the antithesis of Instagram we have all been waiting for. Timing couldn’t be better. But…

I have a major hesitation about BeReal’s rise. Is it fighting against our natural inclination to be our best selves? In different sites and apps, there is an inclination to show our good side and hide the bad side regardless of the intention developers have of their users.

Every blue moon when a #nomakeupselfie movement runs, a growing cadre of selfie takers will wear makeup to hide their blemishes, going against the entire reason for the movement – to be comfortable however you look even if you’re not perfect by society’s standards.

The ‘Broadcast Yourself’ tagline of YouTube reflected the democratization of the internet. All you needed was a camera/phone and you could have your own channel. It vigorously pushed the idea of spontaneously recording a video and it still does that now with the “Create a Short” and “Go live” buttons easily accessible on the app. Like so many other developers, YouTube learnt that you can’t fight against the user’s inclination to stand out, distinguish yourself and all around be better. The ‘Broadcast Yourself’ tagline doesn’t exist anymore. Partly because everyone knows about YouTube now. But also because YouTube isn’t really about spontaneous recording. It’s about professional studios, the best microphones and lighting setups that costs hundreds of dollars. YouTube is anything but spontaneous now. Instead content is planned, crafted and perfected.

Out of all the news we hear about the harms of social media, research published in the American Psychological Association says it isn’t the time spent on social media apps, but the specific experiences that users have that determines if the app is beneficial/harmful.

In particular, Instagram users who engage in digital status seeking (looking for popularity online) and social comparison (evaluating oneself in relation to others) tend to experience negative psychological outcomes.

BeReal can sell itself as the antithesis of Instagram but internet history shows that users will eventually look to perfect themselves on it. If you have 2 minutes to take a photo, I can already see tutorials catered to BeReal users. How to take your best photos within 2 minutes, 5 of the best natural filters to make yourself look amazing on BeReal etc. BeReal may be all about authenticity. But I have no doubt about it, users will eventually make it less ‘real’, ushering in a culture of digital status seeking and social comparison. That’s my hesitation with BeReal…

An app built on the premise of authenticity, fighting against our inclination to be our best selves online.

Abi Ortega
May 14, 2022 8:55 am

Way too early to tell. Expect the unexpected in tech. Triller was expected to supplant TikTok with some help from worsening China-US political relations. Clubhouse was the next big thing but then people left their homes and spoke to each other in person. BeReal is a promising app. I’ve downloaded it and I like the concept. A welcome shift away from highly prepared, curated photos we’re used to seeing on other socials.

BeReal is far from perfect. If Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram can go down, BeReal is allowed to have problems. Sometimes my photo uploads take forever and I get logged out arbitrarily. Posting a comment on a friend’s photo can also take 10 minutes. These are minor issues to me as someone not totally invested in the app, and throwing more engineers at the problems is a viable solution.

The app is glitchy. In a weird way, that works for them. It isn’t polished like the major players, and that’s exactly what it is expecting of its users’ photos. I’m not holding them to too high a standard either. They’re a new company, relatively speaking, having launched in 2020. Their Crunchbase profile puts them at 11-50 employees, which means a small team is running the fast-growing app, reminiscent of Instagram a decade ago.

BeReal was launched to be the opposite of Instagram, to be spontaneous and real, as opposed to planned and filtered. When thousands of apps are launched every day, ironically BeReal would love to have the same growth trajectory Instagram once had.

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Nasro Djebbar
May 17, 2022 12:41 pm

I remember when IG was launched on Android. There was so much hype. Downloads went crazy. IG was the app of the moment. It was cool, anti-establishment. The cycle now repeats. Instagram, to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, you have become the very thing you swore to destroy.

TikTok has the X-factor for the moment. It will inevitably lose it too, over time. BeReal could be the one to take the kewl app crown, but damn, it really needs to sorts it’s bugs out.

As someone who has worked with app developers, there are few things on this planet as frustrating as bugs. BeReal is an awesome concept. That makes it even more frustrating. It would be acceptable if the concept sucked and the app sucked. But the concept is actually a good idea but the app really sucks! 

Ordinarily I would predict a buggy app like BeReal to fail. Then I remember having issues with Triller and it’s not doing too badly, if user figures are to be believed (lol!). Also if Twitter can survive the Fail Whale meme, there is hope for BeReal. ๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿณ

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Fabian Bosiger
June 2, 2022 8:55 am

I hadn’t really heard of BeReal until I saw a lot of tech articles appearing in my Google News Feed. I checked it out and two things instantly came to my mind. Which company will succeed in acquiring it? An acquisition isn’t guaranteed but I 100% guarantee the Facebooks, Snapchats and TikToks of the world are keeping an eye on that eventuality. The second thing that came to mind is, if an acquisition doesn’t happen when will the market leaders of the social world rip off BeReal’s differentiating features?

I think all tech companies have come to a point where there is minimal reluctance to copy a competitor’s ideas. A story I’ve always found funny is the Snapchat-Instagram dynamic. Instagram was an established player in the market when Snapchat was stealing users away from it. For a long time the CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, didn’t want to copy Snapchat’s ephemeral photos idea. There was an etiquette back then whereby carbon copying a competitor’s feature was unacceptable. Eventually Systrom caved and Instagram introduced Stories, a copy of Snapchat’s core feature of disappearing photos.

In a team presentation Systrom told the IG team that even though the feature wasn’t invented by Instagram, it was still innovative in what they were doing. I don’t know if he believed it himself but the team seemed to buy it. Since then the tech world is a very different place. There are no qualms now about ripping off another company’s ideas. If BeReal isn’t acquired soon, stay tuned. You will probably find its features on Instagram soon!