Facebook is working on its own Clubhouse copy

By Harriet Piercy

Published Feb 11, 2021 at 01:24 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Not a whole lot of ideas, or information for that matter, are exclusive. Clubhouse, the app that bases its unique selling point upon ‘exclusivity’, is about to meet its match—the very app that is free and open to all, Facebook. Opposites attract, obviously, but will this be a fatal attraction for Clubhouse?

Facebook is now setting its sights on social audio, basically—it’s cloning Clubhouse, which is the invite only social audio app that launched up in 2020. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, appeared on the app not so long ago, 4 February, which surprisingly surprised Clubhouse users.

Facebook is renowned for its idea borrowing from competitors, such as the inspiration from Snapchat stories being implemented onto the Facebook-owned app Instagram, then Instagram Reels launched, right after TikTok came along. Facebook Rooms followed the video chatting app Zoom. You get the gist. So when Clubhouse news started to wave through social media platforms, Zuckerberg obviously had to check it out. He participated in a room to talk about the future of augmented and virtual reality. Or pitched up for a little primary research, that’s all.

In case you were wondering, according to a transcription from the venture capitalist John Constine, the Facebook CEO’s opinion on the topic was that “We should be teleporting, not transporting, ourselves.”

What is Facebook planning to do with the Clubhouse idea?

Anyway, until our childhood fantasies get proved to be a possibility, let’s focus on what might be happening in the new future: The New York Times has reported that the company is working on a Facebook version of Clubhouse, and stated that the product is in “the early stages of development.”

Apparently, Zuckerberg has already been showing an interest in audio communication forms previously, and now, having had a little peek into the first of its form, Facebook executives have ordered employees to create a similar product. This information comes from anonymous chatterboxes who, although unauthorised to do so, spoke to the publication. They also told The New York Times that Facebook’s new project is under a code name. Exciting!

Before anyone starts shouting ‘copycat’ into Facebook’s ear, Emilie Haskell, spokesperson for the app backed it up by saying that “We’ve been connecting people through audio and video technologies for many years and are always exploring new ways to improve that experience for people.” I’ll give them that.

Clubhouse is still in its beta version, which means it’s still in a testing stage before being released wider. After being invited, and signing up to the app, users can create rooms that are dedicated to different topics. Instead of video or text, it’s just audio—think ‘live podcast’. The Clubhouse clientele is a bit of a celebrity hot house currently, which in a way has paid toward its success so far.

Elon Musk tweeted that he planned to have a conversation with rapper Kanye West, subject to be announced—but we can’t help but hear murmurs of a Musk-West 2024 campaign policy proposal, can you? Let’s just say, Clubhouse is having important conversations without the rest of us, right before our ears. So with Facebook and its slightly more everybody and anybody clientele, will this be different? Or, will it quicken Clubhouse’s pace to open up its exclusive app?

The future of social audio

Facebook isn’t the only big dog gunning for a piece of the pie, because Twitter is currently testing a product called Spaces, that offers a similar audio chat function, but is also in beta at the moment. According to TechCrunch, its team acquired the social podcasting company Breaker, seemingly for its expertise on what could be the new social audio era. The American entrepreneur Mark Cuban is also ticking away at the creation of another live audio app called Fireside, which The Verge reported on in the first week of February 2021. Its estimated launch will be in 2021.

Clearly, tech has spotted yet another gap in the social media market, with the rise in podcast consumption over the last few years—the potential demand for development could be seen as inevitable. It’s safe to say that we should all expect a scramble of new and old tech companies alike to be jumping on the trend before it moves on, and personally I’m looking forward to a bit of live (although likely to still be played back in my own time) and uncensored listening in the very near future.

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