Facebook - Building a Product to Compete With Clubhouse

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Even as a relative new kid on the block, Clubhouse is making a big splash in the tech industry. So much so that one of the biggest in the market, Facebook, has decided to build an audio chat product of its own to rival Clubhouse.

You would not be amiss if you now asked yourself the question, what is Clubhouse? For a lot of people, Clubhouse has passed under the radar for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is less than a year old, and secondly, you can only use it if you have been invited to the app. Despite this, Clubhouse has shown a lot of potential, so much so that it was valued at $100 million just two months after its launch, with a user base of only 1,500 people.

One person that didn’t miss the initial hype around Clubhouse was Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook are planning to move into newer forms of communication, with the Clubhouse format being within their crosshairs. In fact, it has even been reported that Mark Zuckerberg has taken part in Clubhouse conversation rooms on topics around augmented and virtual reality.

When questioned about Facebook executives deciding to create a similar product, a Facebook spokeswoman, Emilie Haskell said, ‘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.’ When questioned on the same topic, Clubhouse had no comment.

It should come as no surprise that Facebook has taken this decision. Throughout its time in business, Facebook has had a reputation for moving into new technologies. In a constant process of staying up to date with audience demographics, a lot of the technologies they invest in are ones that have potential to reach younger audiences. To look at the company’s track record, the technologies it has brought up are Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus.

As well as buying up emerging startups, Facebook is very well known for replicating competitors defining features and unique selling points. To provide some examples of this, we only need to look at Instagram’s Reels features, which replicates the features that has made TikTok so popular. Or amongst the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when Zoom soured in popularity, Facebook released Rooms, which offered its own group video chat.

Clubhouse was first released in March 2020 by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. It quickly made big gains amongst an elite group of people within silicon valley, many of whom were venture capitalists.

The app is still in beta and only available for iOS users, however the developers do have plans to open up to Android in the future. Eventually the idea is for everybody to be able to access Clubhouse. Currently, you are able to download the app from the App Store, but you need an invite from somebody who is already a member to be able to sign in. If you receive an invitation and sign up, you can create conversation rooms based on different topics. Where the app differs from other platforms is that there is no video or text, it is all conducted over voice chat.

The room sizes can vary dramatically, with a cap at 5000 people. The format is also very flexible depending on who is in the room and conducting the events. They can range from an informal conversation between a few people, to more of an interview style event, or even a large group discussion. The majority of people in the room will be listening, while select people will have the stage and opportunity to speak.

The app has been attracting multiple big names to take part in its events. We mentioned Mark Zucherberg earlier in this article, but alongside him, Elon Musk, Drake, Jared Leto, and Tiffany haddish, as well as a number of other high profile people have been involved with conversations on the app.

The events of 2020 seem to have been a strong springboard for Clubhouse to launch itself on. With a global pandemic raging, people had to find more ways to be part of a community while remaining isolated from each other. Alongside this, the exclusive ‘invite only’ aspect is a great way to spark interest and make people more intrigued. With Facebook potentially taking an active stake in the market, it will be interesting to see how the format develops, because it looks like it will be gaining in popularity for the foreseeable future.