In April of last year, the invitation-only audio chat app Clubhouse launched.
COVID-19 pandemic had hit the world and most people were stuck at home. This was the tipping point for the platform which gained popularity during this period and with VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and others putting in millions in investments and share purchases, Clubhouse was off to a great start.
Its exclusivity was one driving factor that made it irresistible for most users especially high profile tech executives like Elon Musk(Tesla CEO), Mark Zuckerberg(Facebook CEO), Bill Gates and Stewart Butterfield(Slack CEO) and entertainers like Tiffany Haddish, Drake, Justin Bieber and Jared Leto.
On Clubhouse, you can create and join rooms to talk about different topics. These rooms can have few listeners or participants or thousands of them. When you join in on these pop-up audio chat rooms, you can see the speakers and listeners and you can choose to follow them.
The app transformed the social media landscape for the better part of last year. At one point, its iOS app had 10 million downloads but now its reign is coming down.
Rival social media platforms are now launching their own versions of voice-only chat rooms.
Social media giant Twitter was the first platform to begin testing Spaces, its new audio chat room feature from late last year.
Twitter Spaces has picked up the pace and the company is putting a lot of resources on it and quickly launching new features to help it take lead.
Twitter has confirmed that they are working on bringing Spaces to the web among other new features that include giving Android users the ability to host Spaces, scheduling spaces, having multiple hosts, managing guests lists and requests, new controls for hosts, the introduction of new media types, improved discoverability and improved audio quality.
Twitter is capitalizing on its existing users to popularize Spaces that is now available on iOS, Android and soon the web.
Now they’re cloning features from TikTok and putting them on Instagram.
Anyway, I was surprised they slacked on this audio-only feature and got surpassed by Twitter.
It looks like they’re now on track.
Instagram Live Rooms
Facebook launched Instagram Live Rooms early last month that lets users broadcast with up to three people. The company says that Live Rooms will open up more creative opportunities, such as starting a talk show or a podcast, hosting a jam session or co-creating with other artists, hosting more engaging Q&As or just hanging out with more of their friends.
Three people are a lot fewer people when compared to the number of Clubhouse listeners and Instagram’s own Livestream feature which got a lot of use last year especially for entertainers like DJs and more who attracted a lot of audiences for their live stream sets.
Viewers on Live Rooms can buy badges for the hosts and use other interactive features including Shopping and Live Fundraisers.
The company is also exploring more interactive tools such as offering moderator controls and audio features that will be available in the coming months.
Live Messenger Rooms
In early February, Facebook began working on Facebook Live Messenger Rooms and would allow for Live Audio rooms that any Facebook user can join – as a host, you can broadcast to more people rather than your friends only.
With this option, Facebook will give a link to the “public” Room for you to share on your Facebook timeline. or anywhere.
Spotify – Locker Room
Spotify also wants in on this live audio format.
Early this week, the giant streaming company announced that they’ll be acquiring Betty Labs which us the company behind Locker Room, a live sports audio app.
Creators on Locker Room including podcast hosts and musicians will now be able to connect directly with their audiences thanks to live audio.
Spotify says that the Locker Rom app will remain in the Apple App Store and will eventually be available on Android.[Clubhouse is currently working on an Android app too that is expected to launch in May]
Regular users on will also have the ability to host conversations.
Spotify may implement these features on its main app including monetization for the creators with pay-to-join chats.
Spotify hopes to attract these live audio chat sessions into its podcast network.
Workplace messaging platform Slack is also interested in live audio. Stewart Butterfield, the company’s chief executive said that they are working to offer a feature akin to the audio-chat app Clubhouse, which allows users to drop into rooms for conversations without requiring scheduling a meeting or initiating a call.
It’s worth noting that he announced this on a Clubhouse interview about the future of work with Josh Constine, a former TechCrunch reporter who is now a SignalFire investor.
“Yeah, I’ve always believed the ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ thing, so we’re just building Clubhouse into Slack, essentially,” Stewart said.
“Like that idea that you can drop in, the conversation’s happening whether you’re there or not, you can enter and leave when you want, as opposed to a call that starts and stops, is an amazing model for encouraging that spontaneity and that serendipity and conversations that only need to be three minutes, but the only option for you to schedule them is 30 minutes. So look out for Clubhouse built into Slack,” he added.
Finally. Circle becomes Square.
Professional networking site LinkedIn is now testing ways to create unique audio experiences connected to your professional identity.
In a statement to Techcrunch, LinkedIn said it was looking at how it can bring audio to other parts of its platform including events and groups, to give its members even more ways to connect to their community.
One thing that LinkedIn has an advantage over is that they have a creator mode. Twitter is yet to have creator tools – although they are working on a Super Follow subscription format.
Group chatting platform Discord now has its own Clubhouse-like feature called Stage Channels which are accessible on all platforms including Windows, Linux, web, macOS, Android and iOS.
Stage Channels as opposed to voice channels that Discord already had now offer certain people the ability to talk to an audience. This feature is however limited to Community servers(they have more powerful community management tools than a regular server).
Listeners are muted by default and they must raise their hand to alert the admin of the voice chat of their interest to speak. Admins can also check the telegram bio of a listener before choosing them to speak.
The social audio space has gained competition in recent months and Clubhouse is already losing grip to established players.
According to recent data from Sensor Tower and Google Trends, people are losing interest in Clubhouse – as seen by the declining app downloads(it went from 37th to 172nd)
It a great thing for social media users that they can now access social audio that was once exclusive on Clubhouse just like Stories was only available on Snapchat.
Clubhouse rivals are already quickly launching new features missing on its platform like native recording which Twitter Spaces is working on and multiplatform accessibility including the web and Android app availability.
Clubhouse also faces moderation issues including harassment and anti-semitic speech which still plagues its bigger rivals but at least they have experience with this problem.
Vanity Fair reports that in the bubble that is Clubhouse, pseudo-intellectual monologues from powerful users can go unchecked.
Moderating live audio will be a growing challenge for these platforms as they’ll need to quickly ship tools that detect problematic audio.
Recordings are deleted on Clubhouse if no issue is reported while Twitter Spaces says that they keep Spaces audio for 30 days or longer if a conversation is flagged. Discord doesn’t record live sessions at all.
Clubhouse is looking to its trust and safety team that includes in-house reviewers and third-party services to investigate and detect harmful content.
Twitter is working on proactive detection that includes checking in transcripts to detect issues.
While these Clubhouse features get copied on other bigger platforms, it will be interesting to see which ones will stand tall and which ones will be discontinued.