Part of what makes MozFest amazing is that you always leave with new ideas and views of the world. Even before the festival kicked off, our sponsor VERO has made me rethink my views of social media just months after removing myself from multiple platforms. Through video calls and numerous email exchanges, I’ve started to re-imagine how social media without ads could be different and spur creativity without damaging our mental health.
Check out this online interview with Christine Moran (Head of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships) and Tom Hodgson (Head of Editorial and Community) to learn more about VERO, why they were excited to support Mozilla and where you can see them at MozFest this year.
Q. This is your first year as a MozFest sponsor. What made you want to support the festival and engage with the MozFest audience?
We’ve been admirers of Mozilla for many years now and proudly share Mozilla’s commitment to user privacy and building better public spaces online. We are excited and honored to be partnering with the Mozilla Foundation at MozFest! MozFest and the Foundation have such an engaged community of people really leaning into the work of building a better internet and we’re looking forward to some really interesting discussions.
Q. Can you tell the MozFest audience a little more about VERO and where you see alignment with Mozilla’s mission?
VERO is a social media reset. We took out all the things that don’t belong in a social app like targeted ads and algorithmic newsfeeds, and focused on a clean, chronological feed and features that support more meaningful connection between people. Like Mozilla, we are passionate believers in the power of the internet to bring people together, and we are working hard to build a healthier social experience for real communities, not advertisers.
Q. What is the biggest challenge or difficulty you’ve faced as you try to grow VERO’s member base? Are there things you’ve learned that are shaping future plans?
As an ad-free, subscription product, VERO is very much going against the grain. We are competing against enormous, addictive Big Social products which have huge scale and enormous marketing budgets which can be challenging, but we’ve learned that the best way forward is to build VERO around the highly engaged community who have embraced us and our privacy-first approach, and remain committed to building a product that gives, not takes, value to our VERO members (how we refer to the users on the VERO platform).
Q. And how are you showing up at MozFest this year? Where should people tune in if they want to learn more about your work?
We’re excited to be in the mix this MozFest. On March 17, our co-founder and CEO Ayman Hariri will be speaking with the inventor of the iPod and former founder of Nest, Tony Fadell, on the need for alternatives to the exploitative ad-tech business model so prevalent online (view it on the MozFest schedule). Members of the team will also be attending talks and events so please say hi!
Q. And beyond the things, you’re organizing, what part of MozFest are you most excited about this year? Is there a talk or session that is of particular interest?
We’re looking forward to so many different aspects of MozFest, but if forced to pick, it’d be the Data Stewardship Science Fair. Shifting the balance of power away from big platforms who mine, sort, and monetize our data – often without us knowing – is one of the big issues of our time. We’re proud to be doing our bit in service of that cause and look forward to engaging with like-minded Mozilla Festival community members to learn more!
Q. If you could change one thing about the internet today what would it be? Why would that change make the internet better for the public?
Opt-in not opt-out. Greater transparency so people can make informed choices on how they participate on the internet is key to building a healthier internet.