BeReal: The app stripping the filter from social media photos

22 Jul 2022

Image: BeReal

What is BeReal? Marketing itself as an alternative to mainstream social media, it recently became the top-ranked app on the App Store in the US.

BeReal, the social media app built around capturing “authentic moments”, has seen a surge in popularity this year particularly among a younger audience.

First launched in 2020 by Alexis Barreyat, the French photo-sharing app presents itself as an alternative to other platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. Its video advert shows people carefully taking photos and asks, “What if social media was different than this?”

Users of the BeReal app are all sent a notification at the same time once a day, giving them two minutes to post a photo that shows what they’re currently up to. The notification time is randomised, so people can’t anticipate it.

The app simultaneously takes a photo using both the front and back-facing phone cameras, to capture the person’s face and their activity. BeReal says this gives users a “unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life”.

BeReal calls out some of the current social media trends in its advertising, stating the app has “no filters, no likes, no followers”. It captures some ideas from earlier social media platforms, such as the once popular Frontback, which also featured simultaneous front and back photos.

The app still has many features that are quite common on social media platforms. Users can connect with friends, and react and comment on the images their friends post, while photos are added to a ‘memories’ section that is similar to an Instagram profile.

Rise in popularity

Despite being around since 2020, the app has garnered a lot of attention in recent months, particularly among TikTok’s Gen Z audience. By April, its monthly active users had grown 315pc since the start of the year, according to Apptopia.

BeReal recently became the top-ranked free app on the Apple App Store in the US. The country appears to have become BeReal’s main market as it represents around 35pc of users, according to data shared with FastCompany. The UK is second highest with 17pc of the app’s users, while France represents 10pc.

The popularity of the app has recently spilled onto Twitter, leading to a range of comedic versions of the BeReal concept spreading across the internet.

Investors are also paying attention. BeReal received $30m in Series A funding last year led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Andrew Chen, Newcomer reported, while Business Insider reported in May that BeReal is raising $85m in capital at a $600m valuation.

It is unclear if BeReal will be able to sustain its recent growth trajectory or if it’s a temporary fad of the internet.

Some media outlets have praised BeReal, with Vice describing it as the “only good social media app”. But others have criticised the claim of authenticity, since users can retake their photo as many times as they wish before it uploads.

It is also unlikely that BeReal can stay in its current state in the future if it wishes to make a profit. The app does not currently have subscriptions or ads, leading to some theories that BeReal aims to get a larger audience before adding profit-making features.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic