Clubhouse launched last year as a small audio chat app. It had a few thousand members last May and now has been downloaded nearly 4 million times just in January.
The app is a way for people to get together to discuss various topics. It lets you join rooms to chat with others and allows up to 5,000 attendees. There is no video or text – just audio. One can think of it as a public meeting hall where you can leave or join at will, akin to going from stage to stage at a music festival or business conference.
You can download the app, but that is not a guarantee that you’ll actually get an account. Clubhouse is by invitation only – you must be invited by an existing member. And it is currently only available to iPhone users. Eventually the app will be open to everyone, including Android users, but until then one must wait for an invite from a member to join.
The Clubhouse app works like this: The user opens the app and sees a list of rooms and who’s in each room. Typically, the rooms are styled like a TED Talk, with one guest speaking and everyone else listening. One can join the conversation when the moderator allows. However, these instances are rare.
Clubhouse rooms are hosted by experts, luminaries, celebrities, venture capitalists, journalists and more. There are thousands of chat rooms open every day. And conversations range from astrophysics and geopolitics to queer representation in Bollywood and cosmic poetry.
They’ve built their reputation on their conversations hosted by big names like Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few. However, Clubhouse has also received a lot of negative press based on reports of harassment, anti-Semitism, racism, and COVID-19 denialism. The startup has said that it is adding advisers and safety features, and empowering moderators to help curtail these issues.
The future of Clubhouse is not yet clearly understood. Its compliance with GDPR regulations is being questioned in several European countries. And China, known for its strict censorship, banned the app in early February.
Clubhouse’s CEO wants the app to be a center for free speech and dialogue, and open to everyone on both iOS and Android platforms. The company plans to make money through ticketed events, subscriptions, and tipping. They currently do not have any plans to sell ads. That said, some members have reported that they have seen sponsors of Clubhouse shows. And, Clubhouse may soon have competitors. There are reports that Facebook and Twitter are working on similar competitive products.