BeReal: what it is and how it works

The social media app BeReal, which pings all its users at a certain time of day with a two-minute alert to take a front and rear photo, has taken off. As of Monday, it’s Number 2 on Apple’s top ranking for free apps.

After seeing BeReal’s skyrocketing popularity, both TikTok and Instagram responded with imitation features on their own apps.

The BeReal app has also inspired a number of memes and internet moments that are immediately viral on other platforms.

What Is BeReal?

BeReal is a social media app, available on Apple and Google Play. It allows users to post one photo a day at a prescribed time that changes every day (which the company says is not random, but the way it is chosen is a “secret”) and view the photos that their friends have posted.

The result is a feed full of ordinary things: work-from-home selfies, spin class views, or images of feet resting on the dining table. It has two options, “My Friends” and “Discover”. The latter has BeReal from people everywhere, and the first one features photos of your friend. You can also view your BeReal past on “My Memories”.

The app is the tech world’s latest attempt to mask social media. Clubhouse turned social media into an audio conversation, (albeit fleetingly) and Snapchat presented itself as a place of more intimate connection between friends. Now, BeReal is prioritizing the “moment.”

A recipe for viral moments

The app’s unexpectedness and its very meme-able name have inspired a number of content on other social media platforms. One person even seemed to capture a BeReal as the Queen of England’s funeral procession passed:

It is also inspiring competitors.

Tiktok introduced “TikTok Now” in September, according to The Verge, and Instagram launched “Dual,” which allows people to take photos in front of and behind the camera, in July.

Instagram is also reportedly working on something very similar to the timed photo feature called “IG Candid.”

“This is an internal prototype, and not something we’re testing externally,” a Meta spokesperson said via email. TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The app has brought in about 56 million downloads in 2022 so far, according to the Washington Post and Apptopia, which estimates app downloads. It was the most downloaded app for August in the world according to Apptopia’s metrics, the outlet added.

It has over 10 million active daily users and fewer than 30 employees, according to its Greenhouse page.

And, unlike competitors, BeReal is apparently considering adding more paid features instead of ads, TechCrunch reported.

Where does BeReal come from?

BeReal was founded in January 2020 by France-based Alexis Barreyat, “in response to the feeling that current social apps are doing everything else except connecting with our friends and family,” according to a fact sheet the company provided in place of the comment. Prior to founding the company, Barreyat worked at GoPro.

The app raised $30 million in a Series A round led by well-known VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, among others.

The tone of the company is also quite casual. When it appeared to have some technical issues last Wednesday, the company tweeted, “yes, we are” and followed up with “everything is fine now ;).”

BeReal’s description on the App Store is also frank: “If you want to become an influencer you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”

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