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SAN FRANCISCO: A selfie and a photo of your surroundings at a different time each day: this is the beginning of BeReal, a social network created by two French people, which promises an experience without filters, far from the veneer of Instagram.

Upon receiving the daily notification, users have 2 minutes to launch the app and photograph their location. Your friends can react by mimicking emojis like a thumbs up, a surprised pout, or a hilarious face.

In “Discovery” mode, users’ photos scroll randomly: one shows a pool game in progress, another a fast food restaurant’s cash register, a third a video streamed on a computer.

Launched in 2020, the platform has been successful for a few months, especially among Generation Z, born between the late 1990s and early 2010s. It totals almost 35 million installations, according to data from the specialized company data.ai.

BeReal was even at the beginning of September the most downloaded mobile app in the United States (iOS and Google Play combined) and was in the top 3 in France and the United Kingdom.

Despite its popularity, the Parisian start-up blocks its communication and its leaders do not grant media interviews. In response to a request from AFP, BeReal sent a brief fact sheet detailing how the application works.

On the LinkedIn profile of co-founders Alexis Barreyat and Kevin Perreau, we learn that they studied at the computer programming school “42”, created and funded by billionaire Xavier Niel, and that they are both sports enthusiasts.

Mr. Barreyat, originally from Drôme, worked primarily for action camera maker GoPro before creating BeReal, which currently employs around 100 people.

In the summer of 2021, the start-up raised $30 million from several investors, including American venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz and Kima Ventures, Niel’s seed capital holding company.

According to the specialist website Business Insider, a new round of funding in May allowed BeReal to raise another $85 million, valuing the company at $600 million.

Show your true face

According to Kima Ventures director Jean de la Rochebrochard, the idea for BeReal came to Alexis Barreyat while filming a mountain bike demo for GoPro.

“As he lived in the moment, he was surprised to see so many influencers moving around staging their lives with countless photos and stories, trying dozens of filters and missing the show altogether.” , wrote Mr. de la Rochebrochard on his blog.

“It even made some of them and their audience unhappy.”

According to Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies, the attraction to BeReal stems from a need for authenticity in response to the overly perfect images on a network like Instagram.

“People are tired of perfectly smooth portraits that don’t reflect real life”, describes the analyst.

“For Gen Z, this feels like fertile ground as they want to show who they are, what their life is really like and how they are going,” she adds.

It remains to be seen whether BeReal will be able to register in the long term or will it just be a flash in the pan, as Jennifer Stromer-Galley, professor at the school of information sciences at the University of Syracuse (New York State) seems to think.

“There is no clear reason to stay there other than the voyeurism of observing other people’s life experiences,” the academic said.

The app also raises questions about managing the privacy of its users.

“Suppose the rear camera shows a friend, your kids, where you live or your desk or your computer screen,” imagines Stromer-Galley, who wonders about the use that could be made of this data by hackers or stalkers. .

For now, BeReal continues to intrigue. According to developer Alessandro Paluzzi, Instagram is already testing a feature, called IG Candids, which replicates the concept of the French app.

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