Last year, Josh Felser, co-founder of the Freestyle venture capital firm and one of the first users of Clubhouse, said: "It's either dead by July or it's something big."
Clubhouse is far from dead, on the contrary, it has been growing steadily for more than a year by now and it doesn't look like it's slowing down. Judging by the plans to launch an Android version of the app, Clubhouse will keep going full steam ahead rushing its competitors to copycat and get a piece of this cake.
What is the secret of success in the case of Clubhouse and what the competition tries to mimic?
The app was launched in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown when people lacked live interaction and needed to discuss the pandemic, its influence, and all the consequences.
When you want a thing and cannot get it, you only want it more. That is how the human brain works. Clubhouse is a rarity and it is difficult to get in, so there are more and more people wanting to hop on this train really badly.
In usual life we don't get a chance to chat with the famous comedian Kevin Hart, talk to Tiffany Haddish, or hear what Elon Musk has to say first hand.
In the Clubhouse chat rooms, Elon Musk talks about his Neuralink Corporation and how they have implanted a chip in the brain of a monkey. Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian and former Twitter CEO Evan Williams give interviews. MC Hammer holds an audio concert. Jared Leto and comedian Kevin Hart share their opinions. And Mark Zuckerberg talks about virtual reality.
Clubhouse members include venture capitalists Mark Cuban and Marc Andreessen, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, actor Terry Crews, and CBS This Morning host Gayle King.
In Clubhouse you can take part in discussions which are happening here and now. There are no recordings and replays. Thus, words that are being said here and now gain more value. The moment will pass and there is no bringing it back.
What are the things to talk over in Clubhouse? It can be stock market, Bitcoin rate and prospects, sports, startup promotion, marketing, website monetization, real estate sector, music, family and children.
Unlike video calls there is no need to look at the screen during a voice chat. Bilal Zuberi, a partner at Lux Capital venture capital firm, said that Clubhouse is the only social audio app that has caught his interest.
“Almost all social media requires us to look at a screen,” said Zuberi, whose firm has offices in New York and Menlo Park, California. “This is the first one where I’m not looking at a screen. I’m involved in social media but I’m sitting by the pool with my kids and as long as I’m muted and not speaking, it’s great.”
With no video to keep track of you can do other things while listening to the speaker, and many Clubhouse members really appreciate it.
Members of the beta group who tested Clubhouse before the launch describe it as a mix of listening to a podcast, scrolling through the Twitter feed, and attending an online conference.
When something new, promising and really competitive hits the market, the result is always the same: all the stakeholders in that niche start their copycat endeavors and try to hop on the bandwagon.
With Clubhouse getting more and more audience, the competition gets on the move to gain back their dominant positions.
In its report Facebook claims to be developing an audio chat app that will compete with Clubhouse. Facebook developers have a task of creating a Clubhouse look-a-like product a.k.a. Fireside. The main difference between the two apps will be Fireside's recording feature enabling users to share the conversations later on other platforms.
Last year Facebook launched a video conference platform Messenger Rooms. Messenger Rooms allows users to chat with up to 50 people at a time with no time limit. This was Facebook's response to the popular video conference platforms such as Zoom and Skype.
Facebook is currently testing an audio version of this platform. The launch is scheduled for this summer.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook is working on a whole slew of audio services that will be released in the nearest future. As he said to tech journalist Casey Newton: “We think that audio is of course also going to be a first-class medium and there are all these different products to be built across the whole spectrum.”
The desktop version of WhatsApp has recently added voice and video call features for Mac and Windows. Now it is available for one-on-one communication only. However, WhatsApp has group voice chats coming.
Other companies also keep up their experiments in order to come up with a live audio format.
Twitter started the tests of its Spaces group audio chat feature in December 2020. Spaces comes as part of the social network itself. Users can join other people's audio chats or start their own chat limiting the number of participants to 11 people. For now, users can only join Spaces via the Twitter mobile app on iOS and Android. But it is confirmed that in the future Spaces will be available for desktop devices. This is a competitive advantage against Clubhouse, at the latter is only available to iOS users.
Automatic subtitles are another advantage of Spaces. You can also invite any person (regardless of their registration status on Twitter) via a link by sharing it through DMs, tweets, or any other media.
Reddit has announced a new audio chat feature named Reddit Talk. It will allow users to hold live audio conversations within communities. The development process has just begun.
LinkedIn has confirmed that their version of a social audio application is on its way. Users will have a chance to communicate with their community. LinkedIn intends to link this feature to the profession of the members rather than just to their social network profile.
Telegram has launched voice chats within groups. Any group can be transformed into a chat room that is always available. Members may come and go at will at any moment. The number of participants is not limited. You can also "raise hand". A voice chat can be launched from the group profile by the group's administrator.
You can always see who is speaking at any given moment. Users can join and listen in whenever they want. And you can still read and send messages while listening to the voice chat.
It is also possible to record conversations.
Discord is not new to voice chatting. The main objective of their chats is to better coordinate players in cooperative games. Now Discord has introduced a feature similar to Clubhouse. It allows to stream live voice chats to the audience of your channel. To get on stage hit the "request to speak" button. Discord has announced that this feature, Stage Channels, is now available on all platforms.
Is it possible to say what fate awaits Clubhouse in the future?
It is a solution for people who love self-development, keep in touch, value expert opinions, are not shy to speak up, and are in the search of an audience suitable for their goals.
Only time will determine whether any of the numerous competitors can become as great a hit as Clubhouse. After all, the audience of the social network and the ambience it creates are the most important parts that matter. And it is nearly impossible to copycat those.
And the Clubhouse itself still has a lot of challenges ahead. It is just as the Red Queen said to Alice in Lewis Carroll's story: "My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that."