Facebook Developing a Product to Rival Chat App Clubhouse

According to sources, Facebook is developing an audio chat product to compete with Clubhouse, a social networking app that has gained popularity with young people who gather and chat about various topics. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, reportedly interested in audio products, has appeared on Clubhouse to chat about augmented reality and virtual reality. Facebook is also known for cloning popular products. Facebook’s audio product is, added the sources, in an early stage of development.

The New York Times notes that, “Facebook has a history of breaking into new technologies and chasing different mediums that have attracted users, especially if those audiences are young.” Among its “cloned” products are Stories, to rival Snapchat; Instagram’s Reels, to compete with TikTok; and Rooms, to vie with Zoom.

This year, Facebook is working on a newsletter service to rival Substack. Facebook’s New Product Experimentation team has also “worked on podcast apps, travel apps and music apps, among others.”

Twitter is also developing a product, dubbed Spaces, to compete with Clubhouse, even as “international interest in Clubhouse has also proliferated.” Clubhouse was blocked in China when people from Taiwan, Hong Kong “and elsewhere” gathered to talk about “topics ranging from the political to the mundane.” The app is currently No. 1 in Apple App Store rankings in Germany, Italy, Japan and Turkey.

Founded last year by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, Clubhouse “has gained traction among Silicon Valley’s elite as a private, invite-only iPhone app” that is still in beta. In addition to Zuckerberg, other celebrities that have appeared include Elon Musk, Drake, Tiffany Haddish and Jared Leto.

Users who sign up can create a room dedicated to a topic, where the preferred medium is voice chat. According to Davison and Seth, Clubhouse has two million weekly users. In January, reported PitchBook, it raised $100 million at a $1 billion valuation; last year it was valued at $100 million.

CNET reports that, because Clubhouse is an invite-only app, “in order to join, you need an invite from someone who is already on the app.” But a would-be user can get on the waiting list by downloading the app (available only for iOS) and submitting his or her phone number. The app’s founders have not given a timeline for when Clubhouse will come out of beta.

Clubhouse’s landing page, The Hallway, allows users to “scroll through all the rooms that are live at the moment.” The user can join any room of interest and, “once inside, you can listen or raise your hand by tapping a button if you have something to say,” with a moderator giving permission to speak. Clubhouse policies block “threats of violence and harm, discrimination, bullying, abuse, harassment, and the spread of false information.”

Related:
Clubhouse Wins Over Hollywood, Tech, Even Elon Musk. Are You Next?, The Wall Street Journal, 2/11/21