BeReal builds a real and authentic social media platform on Google Cloud
Many people struggle with the impact of social media on their lives. It can be at once engaging and informative but also addicting. It also helps us keep in touch with friends and family, but we know it’s typically much better to see people in person when possible. And increasingly people might find themselves spending more time interacting with—or even arguing with—complete strangers instead of the people they care about most.
I grew up in the south of France, studied computer engineering, then worked as a media producer with the camera maker GoPro, traveling the world and producing videos of some of the world’s greatest athletes. Right away, I noticed a contrast between these influencers & content creators (the new audience I started to work with at GoPro) and how these people appeared online and what they were actually like in person. The contrast was incredible.
Much like it can do with celebrities, social media platforms can present an unrealistic version of the lives of everyday individuals. A lot of people can’t help but compare their ordinary existence to the carefully curated version of other peoples’ lives as presented on social media, and that’s even more the case when they’re following celebrities.
This gave me the idea to start a new kind of social media platform, BeReal. It’s a way to truly bring you closer to the friends and family you care most about—and not get lost in a bunch of information from strangers.
Through our app, we send notifications each day to everyone in your network at the same time (but the time notifications go out varies from day to day). We encourage people in your group to post a picture of whatever they happen to be doing at that time. You can only see your friends’ content if you publish content yourself. The result is that people end up sharing more of their real selves—and see more of what their friends’ lives are like in typical moments. It’s a big contrast to the highly staged moments that fill most social media sites.
From Firebase prototype to a top-downloaded app
In the summer of 2019, I used Google Firebase to create a BeReal prototype that my friends and I could use for proof of concept. It worked extremely well, and almost everyone in my immediate circle adopted it. A few months later, I published it in online app stores and have been improving it ever since. It went viral in France in 2021 and hit number one in the App Store. This helped me raise money from notable investors in both France and the United States, enough that I was able to grow from a team of just two people to 30 today.
Firebase gave me a simple way to get started and focus on app capabilities and not get bogged down in development and underlying technologies. It handled the certifications, storage, notifications, and all the parts of the app I wanted to build. In addition, I received some credits from Google for Startups Cloud Program. The timing was perfect because I didn’t have much capital on my own to invest. Since we started, the support from Google Cloud has been terrific, enabling us to quickly address any occasional technology challenges.
Without Firebase, we couldn’t have gotten to where we are today. With Firebase, people like me who are not full stack developers can get started and build an early product.
We use Cloud Functions for Firebase for a low-maintenance serverless back end that keeps our logic private and secure. Firestore allows us to store, sync, and query app data worldwide exactly how we want to. And Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) accelerated our early build-and-deploy cycle and continues to enable us to keep scaling efficiently today.
BeReal operates in Europe and the United States, and recently just launched in Asia. Everyone in Europe gets a notification at the same time no matter which time zone they’re in, and they all upload pictures more or less simultaneously. Same for everyone in the United States and Asia. There’s only a trickle of traffic during most of the day, then as soon as we send out a notification, demands on the system can jump by 10,000 percent.
Privacy and security are also critically important, and standardizing on Google Cloud helps ensure we are consistently compliant. Data and user traffic is encrypted in the storage buckets we’re using, helping us operate as securely as possible.
Moving in the right direction, organically
All our growth is organic. We haven’t acquired any other company or paid for any marketing. And yet in early 2021, we had half a million users in France alone, and now we're several million of users today. We are now focusing on expansion in the United States with ambassador programs at universities to get feedback so we can take this in the right direction. We’re also expanding rapidly in Norway, Iceland, and some other Northern European countries.
It’s exciting to see how positively people worldwide respond to the app. And I think I know why: there’s a massive shift underway in the perception of social media. More people than ever are concerned about predatory algorithms, mental health fallout, privacy, and other issues routinely associated with social media today.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, many realized they were spending way too much time on social media and not enough time interacting directly with people they care most about. BeReal is bringing a real solution—and experience—to some challenges presented by social media. It’s our entire raison d'être. We strongly feel that the timing is right for an app like ours to improve how people everywhere stay engaged with those closest to them. And thanks to Google Cloud, we have an IT foundation to help us achieve our goals.
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