What is the latest social media platform to stir the Silicon Valley and cause repressive governments to ban it? How to get in and why is it so different from other discussion or chatting apps?
Clubhouse, a relatively unknown and fairly new social media app was launched in May 2020, with just 1,500 users, and worth around 100 million dollars. But recently, there’s been a lot of buzz about it, as big players in the Silicon Valley join.
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Be it the change of landscape that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought (we all miss group discussions and drunken rambles with friends!), or the need for people to just have a moderated audio chat without the influencer vibe and turning on a camera, this app now boasts millions of users. Among celebrities and stakeholders who joined Clubhouse are Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Cuban, MC Hammer and Drake.
So, what’s responsible for the crazy growth of this invite only app, and what exactly is it?
What is Clubhouse?
Described simply, Clubhouse is a platform where users can discuss through audio clips about various topics, ranging from the value of Bitcoin and Wall Street hedge funds, all the way to sports, wellness, bodybuilding, art… There is a Clubhouse room for everything.
There are three key differences between the app and any other forum or discussion platforms, such as Reddit or Twitter.
First of all, it is not in written form, but in audio. In every room, there are speakers and listeners. All participants can see who is in the discussion, and sometimes this number reaches 100 thousand. One example of a highly listened-to discussion is when Elon Musk, CEO and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, chatted with the Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on the latest Wall Street battle between hedge funds and Redditors that caused a stir back in early February.
It’s safe to say that this discussion was the cherry on top in terms of promoting this app and getting it new users. In early February, there were 3,6 million users of the app, out of which 1,1 came the week after the Musk and Tenev discussion.
Secondly, it is moderated. A designated moderator oversees the discussions and can both let a participant drop an audio clip and give their five cents, or remove them from the room because of expletives or obscenities. Which is, right off the bat, more than any social media does at the moment to stop the spread of fake news or hate speech.
Aside from the clubs that are categorized by topic, a minimum of two users can also start their own room. So, long story short, this app is one big debate club with rules and regulations. It’s not meant to be about social networking, but encouraging discussion and critical thinking.
Thirdly, it is an invite only app, and it’s currently available only for iPhone users. So, sorry to the Android gang, we’ve been left out of the next big thing again. There’s some consolation in the fact that the creators announced in January that they’ll be working on an Android app soon.
Who’s behind it?
Clubhouse was launched by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, Alpha Exploration Co., which is mainly focused on app development. This app might be their crown achievement, since its January 21 valuation was worth more than a billion dollars.
As for who has a share in it and who is an active member, most of Silicon Valley is on it and investments are raining in.
How to get an invite?
At the moment, you can only be invited to join Clubhouse by an existing user. Right now, it seems like it’s a crème de la crème available-only app because only CEOs of huge startups and investors worth billions of dollars are on it.
But, in a true capitalist demand and supply manner, you can buy a Clubhouse invite on eBay or Alibaba, for a price ranging from 30 to a few thousand dollars. It all depends on how eager you are to get on it. Or, maybe you can ask out a friend or coworker that’s on it to help you jump aboard.
If you receive an invitation, you will be texted a link on your phone number, which will direct you to a sign-up page in the app.
It is still unclear if Clubhouse will eventually open for users, and if anyone will be able to download the app.
Is it the next Twitter?
Time will tell! At the moment, it seems that Clubhouse is riding a very tall wave of popularity and exclusivity that causes many people to feel the fear of missing out. This is essentially how all social media came to prominence.
But, it is not the same as other social media, because instead of self-promotion and vanity, it seems to be more oriented towards information, discussion and communal learning. So, it might not appeal to that large of a mass.
Additionally, the invitation-only nature of it and the moderated discussion might cut a bigger portion of the people who want to get on it, but can’t, or will be kicked out because of being rowdy.
But, if we measure the success of communication apps by how many governments banned them, Clubhouse is in the right direction, since China banned it recently over hosting discussions about the ongoing protest in Hong Kong.
In any case, people suggest that it might either be the next great thing or die out until July. Its success depends on many things, like will it be available for non-iOS users too, and will the invite-only policy stay. Until then, Twitter is safe and sound.