Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and now – Clubhouse? If you’ve found yourself already on the app, you likely keep company with high-profile names such as Oprah, Drake, billionaire Mark Cuban, or Louis Vuitton director Virgil Abloh.
So, what is Clubhouse? It’s audio-only social media somewhere between Snapchat and Twitter. There are “rooms” full of groups of people talking about various topics; once the discussion is over, the conversation disappears forever. Clubhouse is unique because other than a profile photo, there are no photos or videos to upload, on this app, people connect through the sound of their voices.
Users can log into virtual rooms with topical discussions such as ‘women in technology” or “The future of artificial intelligence,” musicians can gather in a room to create an improved R&B song, or engage in rap battle, or practice fluency in another language with native speakers. People fond of just listening can join and mute upon entry, and just listen to the discussions or music play out in the background. Each room is lead by a moderator who guides the discussion topic at hand. Many current users of the app have attested to the refreshing feeling of not worrying about staring at a screen (as many people listen to the app while going about their daily activities) or if a photo will fit into their carefully choreographed Instagram aesthetic.
The app has gained notoriety because many of the current users are part of the social elite. It became a status symbol for celebrities and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs according to the Tech Times, and Refinery29 citing networking opportunities as one of the main allures of the exclusive app.
Founded by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, Clubhouse is valued at a hundred million dollars despite the fact the app is still in beta mode and doesn’t yet have a public website. Right now, iPhone users can download the app and reserve a username but cannot yet join without an invitation. Clubhouse cites the reason they haven’t opened to the general public is first to make sure they can fix all the features and bugs in the interface to handle a large influx of people.
Despite having a waitlist of hundreds of thousands of people long, Clubhouse has already found itself among controversy. So far, the app appears to have no way to moderate conversations. In September, Bloomberg reported a conversation called “Anti-Semitism and Black Culture” moderated by Ashoka Finley, saw several attendees invoking negative Jewish stereotypes, in which Finley apologized for later on Twitter. In another incident reported by The Verge, New York Times writer Taylor Lorenz described her experience with harassment and had no way to report it.
After these incidents, clubhouse released a blog post condemning racism, hate speech, and abuse. They put forth a plan to remedy these issues including moderator training sessions, continually developing their safety policy, and including features such as reporting, muting, and blocking.
The team at Clubhouse appears to be responsive to feedback thus far and has seen mixed success with the limited release of their product. Only time will tell if this platform becomes a social media giant.