Clubhouse Is the New Social Media App Everyone’s Talking About—But Few Are Invited To

Photo credit: Yagi Studio

From Oprah Magazine

  • A new voice chat-based social media app called Clubhouse is making waves in the tech world.
  • Famous folks who have tried the application include Oprah, Mark Cuban, Van Jones, and Chris Rock.
  • Clubhouse is still in beta and not yet available for the public.

Over the summer, Twitter made news for rolling out a voice tweet feature that allowed users to record and post messages. But another social media company, the fast-rising startup Clubhouse, is seeking to have the last word in the world of voice-driven social media.

Created by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth and bankrolled by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Clubhouse is a platform where users can participate in different chat rooms on a wide range of topics. The conversations are audio-only, and when they finish, they disappear forever.

“I think Twitter is the closest analogy because you find, get to know, and follow people that you don’t know,” coder and Clubhouse user Austen Allred told Wired. “But the audio format is fascinating because you can have it on in the background, it’s not a permanent record, it’s multi-way.”

One reason Clubhouse has quickly made headlines is that it’s frequented both by tech industry movers and shakers and plain old celebrities. People who have tried the app include Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, and Chris Rock, according to the Wall Street Journal. Some have spearheaded conversations, while others have simply hung out and listened.

Clubhouse has been in beta since earlier this year, which means that it is not yet available for the public to use. If your interest is piqued, there do appear to be spots available on Clubhouse. As of May, it had 3,500 users, fewer than its total of 10,000, the Wall Street Journal reported, but at the moment, you have to be invited.

The app is still niche, but the social media world has shown that something like Clubhouse can become huge virtually overnight. For that reason, here’s what you should know about Clubhouse, the chatting app that may soon have the world, well, talking.

Clubhouse is a new invite-only voice-based social media app.

In the app, users can enter into different rooms to listen or participate in a conversation. They’re able to see who else is there, and can also see their profiles. The person who made the room is the one who bestows speaking privileges to participants.

Thus far, it’s a bit murky how exactly one gets on Clubhouse. It’s definitely invite-only, per The New York Times. You can currently go to the App Store and download it to reserve your username, but without an invite text there isn’t much you can do yet.

Part of the appeal is believed to be mimicking the spontaneity of parties and large social interactions, which are hard to come by during the pandemic.

Just like at a real social event, users can start off in the main room with many other people, and then break into smaller groups for side conversations. There is no requirement to speak.

A major thing that sets Clubhouse apart from social networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, is that once you join a room, you don’t need to be staring at your screen to participate. Theoretically, someone can be more fully engaged in what’s going on in front of them while still interacting in a discussion room on the app.

Per a Forbes article in May, the company already has a $100 million valuation, despite not even having a full website.

Several notable people including Kevin Hart and Jared Leto have tried Clubhouse.

One of the main ways Clubhouse has been able to make a splash quickly is by getting A-listers in myriad fields to try it. Our very own O of O is perhaps the most famous person to have been seen on Clubhouse. Movie stars like Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, and Jared Leto have also been spotted on it, CNBC reported.

In addition to lighter, more casual conversations, the platform has been used as a forum for more serious discourse. Activist grifter DeRay McKesson and the writer Shaka Senghor spent time on the app sharing their thoughts on police and criminal justice reform, while political commentator Van Jones has also spent time on Clubhouse.

There has been some speculation that, depending on how Clubhouse goes about opening itself up to the public, its appeal could be diminished. Exclusivity is a driving force of interest in the app, and the rooms being smaller and filled with both tech industry titans and the “glitterati” is part of what has made it compelling in beta. That all could change if the app becomes more open.

Nothing is saved on the app, so you have to be there or risk missing the conversation.

Unlike most social media apps where you can get caught up on the day’s news after the fact, Clubhouse is one where you’ve got to be there to avoid missing out. None of the conversations are recorded, and transcripts are not made available after the fact.

“It’s all ephemeral,” Clubhouse member Meltem Demirors told the Wall Street Journal. “It creates this cool urgency.”

This both encourages people to spend time on the app, and also makes time spent on Clubhouse feel more like a face-to-face conversation offline.

Clubhouse was already mired in controversy.

Per Bloomberg, there was a conversation in late September called “Anti-Semitism and Black Culture,” which several attendees said invoked negative Jewish stereotypes. The moderator of the conversation, Ashoka Finley, apologized on Twitter.

As of September, Tablet said that the function for reporting offensive content consisted of recording audio of the interaction and sending it to a customer service line. Per The VergeNew York Times writer Taylor Lorenz said she experienced harassment on the app when she joined a conversation about herself. The broader need for moderation, something that many social media networks struggle with, is one that will likely prove to be a challenge for Clubhouse, too.

In an October 1 blog post, Clubhouse responded to some of these issues and laid out steps it intends to take to ameliorate them. “We unequivocally condemn Anti-Blackness, Anti-Semitism, and all other forms of racism, hate speech, and abuse on Clubhouse,” they wrote.

The startup assured that “incident reports” are investigated and acted upon when necessary, and that it is working on both “building a team of advisors,” and making the reporting function “more real-time, specific, and robust.”

Going forward, they said they are training more moderators and giving them better tools to keep things in check, and having the creator of respective chat rooms create rules that participants must agree to when they join.

People also criticized Clubhouse for allowing Russell Simmons, the music industry mogul who was accused of rape by three women, onto the app.

On a different note, some have lamented the app’s exclusivity and the fact that so many of the conversations that take place are about the tech industry of Clubhouse itself.

As with many innovative tech companies, it’s difficult to project what the future will hold for Clubhouse. But as the app grows, both in user base and profile, it’s sure to figure into conversations about digital discourse.

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