Gen Z's favorite social app BeReal experienced a lengthy outage today, which the company only acknowledged with a brief -- and fairly vague -- tweet, stating: "yup, we're on it." In recent months, the Paris-based app maker has seen its photo-sharing service climb to the top of the App Store, ousting competitors like Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok from the No. 1 spot, at times. But the company has also developed a reputation for not being very communicative -- a pattern that extends to its own users, it seems.
To date, the startup hasn't officially offered an on-the-record interview with press, though it's been willing to meet with some for off-the-record briefings. (Or apparently, on background if you're the Financial Times.)
This hesitancy to communicate goes beyond the media, however. Today, when BeReal faced a lengthy outage -- one that spanned multiple hours and frustrated its users who could no longer upload photos -- the company had little to say.
Meanwhile, devoted users stormed the account's Twitter replies asking for more details while others posted to the hashtag #BeRealDown with their complaints. Many just wanted to know if the problems they were experiencing with the app were also impacting others. They had no information.
Reached for comment, BeReal declined to answer a number of questions related to its outage, including things like what caused it, how widespread it was and whether the company had a sense of when it would be resolved.
Understandably, its team may have been struggling to address the technical issues before responding to these inquiries. But when the outage was resolved hours later, we were only pointed to this tweet that stated: "all good now."
all good now ;)
— BeReal. (@BeReal_App) September 21, 2022
This lack of transparency from a company that simultaneously pushes its user base of millions to "be real" with one another is starting to wear thin.
At this point, we have to wonder how a company like this would respond if there ever was a more serious issue impacting its platform. What if BeReal experiences a data breach or hack? What if bad actors engaged with the platform in some way -- will BeReal have anything to say then?
The company cannot keep pretending it's a tiny, indie app maker. It's raised a $30 million Series A, led by Andreessen Horowitz and Accel followed by a Series B from DST Global, valuing the startup, pre-money at $600+ million, reports said. The app has seen nearly 46 million installs, according to data from Sensor Tower. It's still today the No. 3 app on the U.S. iPhone App Store's non-game charts -- having only temporarily lost its top spot to widget creation apps following the launch of iOS 16. It soon plans to monetize with subscriptions.
While being press-avoidant may be a strategy BeReal is employing for now, being non-communicative with its own users seems like a misstep. BeReal has been on the rise, but it can't count on its continued success just yet.
After all, young people are nothing if not fickle when it comes to trying out and abandoning new social experiences. And TikTok just outright cloned the entire BeReal format as did Instagram and Snapchat to some extent. If BeReal wants to be seen as a company and not just a feature to be copied, it's time for it to act like one.