It’s been nearly four years since TikTok’s global launch, so unsurprisingly, it’s time for the next big social media app. Less than a year after its launch in Apple iPhone, Clubhouse already meets the requirements to be the app that everyone is talking about. Great advertising, superfamous users, controversies, bans and a large valuation (even though it does not generate money).
We tell you everything you need to know.
Why should I care about Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is generating interest after its launch in Android around the world, from the United States (where it started) to China, Brazil, India and Turkey. Wherever you are, you’ll probably hear about Clubhouse soon.
Some of the richest and most famous people in the world already have their names on the app– from Elon Musk (the founder of Tesla and SpaceX) to Mark Zuckerberg (the creator of Facebook), rappers Drake and Kanye West and media star Oprah Winfrey.
Inevitably, this wave of fame has generated financial interest: the British newspaper Financial Times claims that venture capitalists are already valuing Clubhouse at more than US$1,000 million.
That’s a staggering figure for an app that currently has no way to generate money.
How does Clubhouse work?
What makes Clubhouse stand out is the lack of text, images and videos: the app is audio-only. In addition, everything happens life, in real-time.
You can start a virtual room or join one where other people are talking. Generally, only a certain number of people can speak. Everyone else just has the option to listen. But they can raise their hands and ask to be allowed to speak.
Within the app, conversations are not recorded or available to be played back later, so you need to capture everything as it happens. To make sure you don’t miss something you can select the topics you want to follow and you’ll receive notifications when someone starts talking about something you’re interested in.
What’s so good about it?
The audio format gives Clubhouse the intimacy of a podcast or radio show.
Elon Musk also believes the app avoids what he described as a “context shift” that he said is a “mind-killer.” Musk’s words, according to those who tried to decipher them, would be a tricky way to say, “There’s not a news update every 10 seconds with images of cats distracting you, so you can focus on one topic.”
And while many people only use the app to talk to their friends, the presence of big names like Musk means you can hear celebrities and influencers chatting casually as if you were with them in the same room. A possibly unexpected advantage is that being a new application, it has managed to avoid the restrictions that some governments imposed on the large existing social media platforms.
Clubhouse was available in China, where most American social media apps like Twitter and Facebook are banned. News site Quartz reported that Chinese clubhouse users were “using this space to talk about topics that would otherwise be censored… like democracy.” But in early February the Chinese authorities also banned this application.
In many other countries, Clubhouse has become popular with activists.
How can I download the Clubhouse?
Currently, you can only enter Clubhouse by invitation. You’ll have to wait until someone invites you to join the club, and existing users can only send five invitations at first. But this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to join Clubhouse anytime soon.
Facebook is now a global giant with more than 1,500 million users, but in its beginnings, it was only available to a few thousand students from elite U.S. universities. Even something as every day as Google’s email platform, Gmail, was once by invitation only, before it also surpassed 1,500 million users.
Downsides of Clubhouse
Virtual rooms are limited to a maximum of 5,000 participants, so if someone very popular is talking you may not have a chance to enter. In addition, like almost every social media app in history, Clubhouse has raised privacy concerns.
The app temporarily records all conversations, it claims, “solely for the purpose of supporting potential incident investigations,” and then deletes them. But only Clubhouse decides if audio is maintained in the long run. Many people resent that the app’s terms and conditions prevent users from recording their own conversations.
Some critics also wonder what access the app has to the phone contacts of those who join.
Will it be the next big app?
Possibly. Clubhouse only has two million active users but has been growing rapidly since its launch in 2020. However, social media is a tough business and Clubhouse seems to be just a good idea with no proprietary technical tricks. This means its competitors can easily copy it, a problem Snapchat knows well.
Its novelty of posting photos or videos that disappear was relentlessly copied by Instagram, and this affected the growth of Snapchat users. But with its audio chat format offering something different than almost all other social media platforms, Clubhouse could well take off.