NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – Last summer, the social media app Clubhouse had only a few thousand users, mostly Silicon Valley tech workers and waiting capitalists who wanted to connect with each other in the pandemic. Today it has millions of users, an estimated US $ 1 billion (S $ 1.33 billion) and a ton of buzz.
Both Tesla’s Elon Musk and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently appeared on Clubhouse, causing such a stir that the platform nearly crashed.
Still, it remains a small club, so to speak, sure as compared to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have heard about it, and want to know what the fuss is about, here is a primer.
F: What is it?
IN: A social networking app that lets people gather in audio chat rooms to discuss various topics, whether it’s sports, wellness, art or why Bitcoin is going up to US $ 87,000.
Rooms are normally divided into two groups: those who talk and those who listen (participants can see a list of everyone who is in conversation, and the numbers sometimes run into the thousands).
Unlike Twitter, Clubhouse is a closed, hierarchical platform: A moderator oversees discussions and has the ability to let someone in or make them unruly. In addition to the “clubs” sorted by topic, two or more users can join and start their own chat room.
The app was unveiled last spring by two veterans in the tech sector, Mr. Paul Davison and Mr. Rohan Seth. Their prototype of a podcasting app looked so much like a broadcast that they added a feature that users joined in the chat.
Clubhouse is different compared to a podcast with audience participation; the 2021 version of AOL’s Instant Messenger; and an old-fashioned party line.
The focus on audio, instead of text, photos or videos, is a distinction and part of the profession. Ms Delia Cai, of the newsletter Deez Links, wrote about her experience on the app: “It felt spontaneous, low commitment and blessed did not involve it in turning on some sort of camera.”
F: Who’s sitting on it?
IN: As the name suggests, Clubhouse is built on exclusivity: You must be invited by an existing user.
Early members of the club include Silicon Valley venture capitalists (Mr. Marc Andreessen and Mr. Ben Horowitz, both early investors in the app), web-savvy entrepreneurs (Mr. Mark Cuban and Mr. Tim Ferriss), a smattering of artists and cultural influencers (Tiffany Haddish, Drake and Virgil Abloh) and people with random claims to fame (Vanilla Ice and Mr. Roger Stone).
Clubhouse has been criticized by some for its male-dominated, bro-y energy (although many women also stand on the platform).
The open information exchange has also made it popular with users from countries with repressive governments. China blocked Clubhouse in February.
At the moment, the app, which is still in the beta stage, has the rare (and probably fleeting) feel of a small world. It’s still a surprise when you bump into someone you know, or when, for example, Senator Tim Kaine of the United States shows up in a chat room.
F: What happens next?
IN: Clubhouse can, at times, reflect Silicon Valley’s relentless focus on personal optimization. Networking, weight training, early retirement, investors and Bitcoin, Bitcoin, Bitcoin – the busy culture is real and present.
But there is also an enormous theater scene with staged plays and a dating scene. And conversations are often free-spirited, convoluted and completely unwritten. That unpolished quality is part of the charm.
A recent weekly show hosted a talk show, “Housin ‘Around,” hosted by comedian Alexis Gay; a pitch event for entrepreneurs with start-up ideas; an interview entitled “Forming Black Creative Spaces in Fashion”; and Karaoke at Clubhouse, among other discussions.
Daily and weekly performances have begun to emerge from the formlessness, such as “The Cotton Club”, a chill zone after hours hosted by musician Bomani X, and “Good Time”, which repeats the technical news of the day to 22.00 Pacific time time, Bouncing between the rooms is easy and a lot of fun.
F: How do you get an invitation?
IN: Clubhouse is currently only available on iOS. Each person invited to participate will in turn receive invitations to share (users active on the platform will receive more invitations). So try saving a friend or colleague already in the app.
If that fails, you might be able to buy your way: Invitations go for between US $ 30 and US $ 20,000 on eBay. (But be aware that Clubhouse lacks some of the privacy filters of other platforms.)
Or you can wait: The Clubhouse website suggests that the app will open in time to a wider audience, than anyone.